“Party bus” operator ordered to immediately shut-down passenger service
June 4, 2013
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered Olathe, Kan.-based passenger carrier Midnight Express, LLC to immediately cease operations, declaring that the company’s owners, Adam Breidenthal, Derrick Hansroth and Edward Goetz, were operating an unauthorized and unsafe commercial transportation service.
“There is no higher priority than safety,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Passengers on any commercial van or bus should feel confident they’ve boarded a safe vehicle, one that is properly maintained and operated by a qualified driver. Carriers that cannot meet our safety regulations will not be allowed to operate.”
On May 4, 2013, a passenger traveling to Kansas City, Mo., on a modified motor coach operated by Midnight Express fell out of a door onto the road surface and was fatally struck by other vehicles. A subsequent inspection of the vehicle by the Kansas Highway Patrol found that realigned seating modifications made to the vehicle resulted in all four emergency exit windows being blocked. Inspectors found that the rear emergency exit window was also blocked and that the release mechanism was inoperable. Inspectors found serious deficiencies with the vehicle’s brakes and discovered engine exhaust leaks beneath the passenger compartment.
“We are grateful to the Kansas Highway Patrol for their partnership and dedication to duty,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne S. Ferro. “We will continue to work together, to strengthen our partnership in order to remove unsafe commercial vehicles and operators from our roads and protect the traveling public.”
Based on findings by the Kansas Highway Patrol inspectors, the FMCSA launched a federal investigation, during which FMCSA investigators found that the Midnight Express owners failed to ensure that its drivers were qualified and had complied with federal hours-of-service regulations. Drivers were not subjected to random drug and alcohol tests as required by federal regulations. In addition, Midnight Express owners failed to obtain USDOT passenger carrier operating authority and to carry $5 million in liability insurance federally required for all commercial passenger carriers.
A copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order can be viewed at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/documents/about/news/2013/MidnightExpress.pdf..
The Wyandotte County, Kan., district attorney’s office is continuing its criminal investigation.
As part of FMCSA's work to make safety data readily available to the traveling public, the SaferBus mobile app gives bus riders a quick and free way to review a bus company's safety record before buying a ticket or booking group travel. The SaferBus app, available for iPhone, iPad and Android phone users, can be downloaded for free by visiting FMCSA's "Look Before You Book" webpage at www.fmcsa.dot.gov/saferbus.
Travelers planning a bus trip are also encouraged to think safety first before buying a ticket or chartering a bus by using FMCSA's multilingual passenger carrier safety checklist at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/Index.aspx.
FMCSA urges consumers and whistleblowers to 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 consumer complaint web site: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/HomePage.asp.
Consumers who bought a ticket on a bus company that FMCSA has recently placed out-of-service may be entitled to a credit from their credit card company under the Fair Credit Billing Act if they paid for the ticket by credit card. For more information visit: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/safety-security/pcs/bus-credit-refund.aspx.