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Addressing safety concerns - by Times Dispatch
Federal regulators have been looking closely at the operations of smaller motor carriers in recent years after receiving safety complaints.

Jimmy Chen of IvyMedia said many of the smaller bus companies reported receiving visits and inquiries about two years ago from government officials who asked about the companies' licensing and insurance.

"Most of the lines follow the rules," he said. "If not, Greyhound will make them follow."

In fact, it's the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, an arm of the U.S. Department of Transportation, that began scrutinizing the small, urban-based motorcoach companies.

In 2003, the agency created a task force of federal, state and local officials that found a "complex web of business relationships" making it difficult to determine who was responsible for a carrier's operations, according to an agency statement.

Several carriers were found not to have the authority needed to operate commercial passenger buses.

Most of the violations had to do with drivers not being subjected to required drug and alcohol testing, or the carriers not adhering to rules dictating how many hours a driver can be behind the wheel.

The carriers' compliance problems were typical of those who are new to the industry, the statement said, and language barriers further complicated the matter.

"Once the carriers have been notified they are in violation, they have acted quickly and cooperatively to pay fines and make corrections," the statement said.

Lotus Tours Inc. of Rockville, Md., the company that operates buses for Today's Bus, met government requirements during its most recent inspection.
During 47 inspections in the past 24 months, officials turned up violations in about 13 percent of bus inspections, less than the national average of almost 23 percent, according to safety-agency records.

During the same time period, the driver-violation rate was about 23 percent, more than three times the 6.7 percent national average.

For New Century Travel, in 28 inspections, about 24 percent turned up violations for buses, and roughly 32 percent for drivers.
In Greyhound's 2,508 inspections during the past 24 months, about 9 percent found violations for vehicles, and almost 2 percent for drivers.
Lotus has 23 drivers and 13 vehicles, New Century has 12 drivers and 12 vehicles, and Greyhound has 4,504 drivers and 2,309 vehicles, according to the most recent federal records.

All three companies have passed their most recent compliance review, and none has been ordered to suspend service.

-- Dena Sloan