February 25, 2013

Inspectors call Chinatown buses 'imminent hazard'

They say they've found problems with eight buses operated by the popular discount bus service.

The Associated Press

BOSTON – State inspectors say they've found serious safety problems with buses used by a popular discount bus service operating between Boston and New York City and are asking federal transportation officials to declare Fung Wah Bus an "imminent hazard," essentially shutting down the operation.

Department of Public Utilities Chairwoman Ann Berwick said that inspectors looked at nine buses used by Fung Wah Bus and found serious problems with eight, including cracks in their frames.

Berwick said the state negotiated an agreement with the company to take all 21 of their older buses off the road. Six of the company's buses are still operating.

"We have asked the federal Department of Transportation to declare an imminent hazard which would effectively shut down the company until it could operate" safely, Berwick said Monday.

Among the problems discovered by inspectors were "four undercarriage frame cracks including at the drive axle, at the cross member for the motor mounts, and at the differential and over the right front steering axle," according to a letter sent by Berwick to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Administrator Anne Ferro.

The company, which operates between the Chinatown neighborhoods of Boston and New York, has had a history of troubles.

In 2006, the company was fined $31,100 for violating federal safety regulations linked to a rollover in Auburn that injured dozens of passengers traveling from New York to Boston. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration said Fung Wah improperly hired drivers who couldn't speak English and who regularly exceeded speed limits.

In 2005 a Fung Wah bus bound for New York caught fire in Meriden, Conn. All 45 passengers were evacuated moments before flames engulfed the bus.

Berwick's letter said it appears the company had tried to repair the latest problems but in some cases only made them worse.

"The department has also noted that some of the attempted repairs made by Fung Wah to various buses appear to be substandard because the welds have not been completed and/or have failed and the cracks appear to be larger than they were when the buses were initially inspected," Berwick wrote.

A call to the company was not immediately returned Monday.

Berwick said she is asking the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to pursue the "Imminent Hazard Order" for what she called the company's "blatant disregard for federal safety regulations and putting the company's own drivers, passengers, and the motoring public at risk."

Berwick wrote that Fung Wah "is currently incapable of maintaining a fleet of motor coaches."

 

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