U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
1200 New Jersey Ave., S.E.
Washington, DC 20590
Friday, April 6, 2012
Contact: Shashunga Clayton
U.S. Department of Transportation Orders Heartland Charters Tours, Inc. to Shut Down
FMCSA declares Oklahoma bus company an Imminent Hazard to public safety
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has declared Heartland Charters Tours and its principals an imminent hazard to public safety. The Oklahoma-based, interstate passenger bus company was ordered to immediately shut down its operations.
“Safety is our top priority. We will take swift action against any unsafe bus company that places passengers and other motorists at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
FMCSA placed Heartland Charters Tours out-of-service after an extensive review of the company’s operations found multiple hours-of-service, vehicle maintenance, and controlled substance and alcohol testing violations. Safety investigators discovered that the company did not conduct pre-employment drug screenings of its drivers and failed to use properly qualified drivers, putting the public at risk.
“FMCSA is serious about getting unsafe bus companies off the road,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “We will continue to use every resource within our current authority to protect the traveling public and make our roads safer.”
Over the past five years, FMCSA has doubled the number of bus inspections and comprehensive safety reviews of the nation’s estimated 4,000 passenger bus companies. Roadside motorcoach inspections have jumped nearly 100 percent, from 12,991 in 2005 to 25,705 in 2010, while compliance reviews are up 128 percent, from 457 in 2005 to 1,042 in 2010. By significantly increasing bus safety inspections, FMCSA placed 54 unsafe companies out-of-service in 2011 alone.
As part of FMCSA’s ongoing efforts to improve commercial bus safety, the agency recently unveiled SaferBus, a first-of-its-kind app that gives bus riders a quick and free way to review a bus company’s safety record before buying a ticket or booking group travel. Designed for the Apple iPhone and iPad, the SaferBus app can be downloaded for free by visiting the Apple iTunes App Store or going to FMCSA’s “Look Before You Book” webpage at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/saferbus.
Before buying a bus ticket or booking a bus company, FMCSA also encourages consumers to review the Department of Transportation’s “Think Safety: Every Trip, Every Time” pre-trip safety checklist available online at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx. Consumers should report any unsafe bus company, vehicle or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238) or FMCSA’s National Consumer Complaint Database.
Additionally, over the last two years DOT has taken action to reduce distracted driving by commercial truck and bus drivers. In January 2010, FMCSA banned texting by commercial drivers, and in November 2011 the agency prohibited commercial drivers from reaching for, holding or dialing a cell phone while operating a commercial motor vehicle.
A copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order can be viewed at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/about/news/2012/Heartland-IH-order.pdf.