Feds crack down on unsafe buses

December 12, 2013 (CHICAGO)

The feds called it "Operation Quick Strike" and Thursday night authorities have curbed bus companies from coast to coast and through the Midwest after inspectors found a checklist of problems from shoddy maintenance and bad tires to missing parts.

Four Chicagoland charter bus companies are fighting to get back on the road, some claiming they are being unfairly targeted by the government.

There were unannounced inspections made on bus companies nationwide and in Chicago.

In an eight month "intensified effort" called "Operation Quick Strike" federal regulators shut down 52 bus operators nationwide after United States Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said they "put passengers at risk."

In south suburban Riverdale, Nealson Coach had four buses put out of service after five inspections finding "stop lamp violations," tire tread depth concerns, and even false certification that all violations have been corrected.

A company manager told the I-Team their violations were paperwork problems and she "thought it was corrected."

She says they've completed their corrective action plan and "thought" before Thurday's announcement that they were "in the clear."

In northwest suburban Park Ridge Across Town Charter Inc. had 18 bus inspections in the past two years leading to 11 buses put out of service.

Inspectors found violations like "axel positioning parts defective/missing" and tire problems.

A company executive said they were audited in July and have an "impeccable" safety record. Their safety correction plan has been submitted but was denied by the feds -- and the company has hired an attorney.

Finally on Chicago's South Side, Irma J. Tours Inc. had three buses put out of service after five inspections. Safety records show one of their drivers has been cited for speeding in a construction zone and maintenance inspections found tire problems, and bus air suspension pressure loss.

The president of Irma Tours told the I-Team that the government action is "unfair and unnecessary" and said all repairs were made promptly after being cited. A fourth company in Wood Dale called "Across USA Tour and Travel" was shut down for bus emergency exit violations and leaking brake lines.

'Across USA' did not respond to inquiry requests from the I-Team. Federal safety records do not show a history of crashes with these local companies.

For more information: List of bus companies shut down

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