After a series of crashes involving casino buses on Southern California freeways -- including some that were fatal -- federal investigators intensify their crackdown on unsafe buses. Joel Grover reports for the NBC4 News at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 26, 2013.
The federal government is stepping up its crackdown on unsafe buses in California, issuing an order that puts five "unsafe" bus companies out of business.
This latest move comes seven weeks after the NBC4 I-Team began airing reports exposing widespread safety problems with LA area bus companies, and a week after three major bus crashes on Southern California highways.
The Federal Motor Carrier Administration has ordered the LA-based bus company called "It's Good Promotion" to stop doing business immediately. The company, based in East Los Angeles, ran buses from LA to Mexico.
The feds say on Dec. 1, they inspected a bus with the "It's Good Promotion" name crossing the border into the U.S., and found 17 serious safety defects. They ordered the bus "out of service," and opened an investigation into the company.
Investigators uncovered something even bigger: they say It's Good Promotion was illegally allowing at least four other "unsafe bus companies," that had previously been shut down by the government, to continue operating, by using the It's Good Promotion name and federal registration number to evade authorities.
"Rogue bus companies that compromise public safety are being shut down in California and nationwide," said Federal Motor Carrier Safety (FMCSA) Administrator Anne Ferro.
The NBC4 I-Team went to the offices of Its Good Promotion and Holy Spirit Tours, but no was available for comment.
In their investigation, the FMCSA found serious violations from It's Good Promotions bus operations, including:
The investigation found companies like Holy Spirit Tours of Los Angeles operating under It's Good Promotion's federal registration number. Holy Spirt Tours was shutdown by the feds in October 2012 after they found serious problems, including the "fitness" of the company's drivers.
The FMCSA also found two Phoenix-based bus companies that were previously shutdown, were back in business because they were using Its Good Promotion's registration.
The government has issued an "Imminent Hazard" Order that forces It's Good Promotion and the others to stop doing business immediately.
The federal investigation into these companies continues, and officials say those companies could face civil and criminal penalties, possibly including prison time.
"Deliberately evading federal safety regulations that protect travelers on our highways and roads has serious consequences and will not be tolerated," says U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx.