Five Illinois bus companies were among the carriers sidelined as part of "Operation Quick Strike," an eight-month effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Chris Coffey reports.
Five Illinois bus companies -- including four in the Chicago area and another that provides daily transportation for college students -- are among 52 carriers that have been shut down by federal regulators nationwide, officials with the U.S. Department of Transportation announced.
NBC5 Investigates found the local companies have been cited for such violations as ignored warning lights, vehicle maintenance violations, and inadequate drug and alcohol testing for drivers.
But some companies counter that the shutdowns are unwarranted and are based on minor maintenance and administrative issues going back several months, which have all since been addressed.
Overall, the motor coach industry carries about 700 million passengers a year in the U.S., roughly the same as domestic airlines.
The five Illinois companies now shut down are:
All five companies advertise themselves as bus charter services, available mainly for transport for groups like church organizations, wedding parties, and Boy Scout trips.
Illini Tours, however, also offers regular daily transport for students from The University of Illinois and Illinois State University to a variety of locations in Chicago and suburbs.
The shutdowns are part of "Operation Quick Strike," an eight-month effort by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
NBC5 Investigates pulled the complete inspection records for the five Illinois-based companies and found citations ranging from paperwork issues -- like failing to preserve certain supporting documents or not updating a driver’s qualification file -- to vehicle maintenance issues, like bad brakes and worn tires.
The owners of Acrosstown Charter, Across USA Tour & Travel, and Nealson Coach each told NBC5 Investigates that they have addressed all their cited violations and have submitted the required paperwork to USDOT. They have yet gotten the OK from the government to resume service, they said.
Efforts by NBC5 Investigates to reach the other local companies were unsuccessful.
Nationwide, investigators cited a variety of problems with various carriers in 49 states, including drivers who had suspended licenses, and others who drove as much as 800 miles at a time with no break. Only one bus company, located in Kansas, was shut down following a death.
The FMCSA originally ordered Illini Tours to immediately cease all operations last May. Among Illini's citations, the FMCSA said, was that it kept one bus running for several days while ignoring a warning light which indicated problems with the bus’ anti-lock braking system.
"Its drivers and vehicles pose an imminent hazard to public safety," a USDOT spokesman said about the company.
The Illini Tours website is still operating but attempts to book a trip from the University of Illinois to Chicago came back with all bus routes listed as "unavailable."
The FMCSA now offers a mobile application for both iPhone and Android called SAFERBUS which allows anyone to type in the name of a bus company and immediately find out its safety record with the USDOT. In addition, the FMCSA offers extensive resources on its website to check various aspects of a bus company’s safety and performance record.
Here is a state-by-state list of 49 companies that were shut down by the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and have not reopened.
British Columbia, Canada:
Companies that were shut down but have reopened: