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Dangerous Buses Still on the Road Thanks to Poor Oversight

Aug 26, 2008 | Parker Waichman LLP

Following a fatal Texas bus crash earlier this month, federal authorities have been cracking down on bus companies with spotty safety records.  But according to a report in The Houston Chronicle, revoking a rogue bus company's license to operate might not be enough to guarantee public safety.

The August 8th Texas bus accident, which killed 17 people, was the nation’s deadliest  bus crash since 2005. The charter bus, owned by a company called Iguala Busmex, was taking a group of Vietnamese Catholics to a religious festival in Missouri.  The vehicle blew an illegally treaded tire, skidded off the highway and overturned. In addition to the deaths, 38 people were injured.

Iguala Busmex was an offshoot of another Texas bus company, Angel Tours, and both were operated by Angel De la Torre.  Following the crash, it was learned that De la Torre  opened Iguala Busmex three days after federal investigators banned Angel Tours from interstate travel after finding safety violations. Despite those violations, Iguala Busmex was able to  receive a U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) number.  However, the company had not yet been approved for operation at the time of the accident.

Officials in Texas admit that they do not know how many other  bus companies might be operating under new names to get around operating bans the way De la Torre did. But it could be a lot.

According to the Houston Chronicle, around 300 bus companies are legally operating in Texas.  Carol Davis, director of the Texas Department of Transportation's (TXDOT) motor carrier division, told the newspaper that  two of every five Texas charter bus companies have been ordered off the road in the last two years. She said state officials were trying to find out how many revoked companies were operating under a different name.

Davis said that by late September, TXDOT  will begin posting complaints filed against bus companies on its Web site.

Since the August 8 accident, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has also been cracking down on questionable bus companies.  Late last week, it ordered Autobuses Rio Verde of Irving, Texas to cease interstate operations because of its links to Green River Buses LLC of Dallas.  According to the Associated Press, Autobuses Rio Verde was involved in at least two deadly accidents - the most recent on July 3 - in Mexico before being shut down.

According to the FMCSA,  Autobuses Rio Verde  and Green River Buses had vehicles, drivers and management in common. Autobuses Rio Verde owner Marco Vasquez previously was the terminal manager for Green River Buses, while Green River Buses owner Luis Patino was manager and safety director for Autobuses Rio Verde.

Autobuses Rio Verde was given permission by the FMCSA to begin operations on June 5, a mere six weeks after Green River Buses was ordered to stop doing business because of an unsatisfactory safety rating, according to the agency.

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