The California Highway Patrol on Tuesday raided the offices of a large Los Angeles-area tour bus company, in direct response to an NBC4 I-Team Investigation.
CHP investigators showed up at San Gabriel office of Double Hi Express to seize records, and at the same time another CHP team made a surprise visit to a Pomona bus yard to inspect the company's buses. Double Hi runs 16 buses from the LA area to casinos as far away as Las Vegas and Palm Springs.
Last week, the NBC4 I-Team shared the latest findings of its ongoing investigation into unsafe tour buses with the CHP. The I-Team documented some Double Hi drivers working shifts lasting more than 21 hours. Federal and state regulations forbid drivers to work more than 15 hours a day, 10 of those hours behind the wheel.
"A driver that becomes fatigued, it affects their motor skills, their ability to safely operate the motor vehicle," said Michael Kelley of the CHP's Motor Carrier Safety Unit. Dozens of people have been killed and hundreds injured in the last two years alone, in bus crashes blamed on "driver fatigue."
After examining the I-Team's evidence, the CHP's Kelley said his agency was going to "act fast" to protect the public from a tour bus company allegedly putting passengers and all motorists on the highway at risk.
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In Tuesday’s raid, CHP seized drivers logs and payroll records from Double Hi's office, looking for evidence that drivers have been asked to work hours exceeding government regulations. Federal regulations require drivers and companies to keep logs of the hours they work and drive.
A former Double Hi driver told the I-Team that his bosses instructed drivers to keep two sets of logs: one showing their hours for the daytime shift and another for the evening shift. That driver said if he was stopped by the CHP on the highway, the company instructed him to show officers only one set of logs, to hide the fact that he'd worked an illegal double shift.
"It's very concerning that we see there are two separate documents and the potential that (the drivers) would hide a document from us," Kelley said.
The CHP said it might continue its inspection of Double Hi's office on Wednesday to examine or seize more records.
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After it completes its investigation, the CHP said it will make a recommendation to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) about what, if any, action should be taken against Double Hi. The CPUC licenses Double Hi. The state could shut down the company temporarily or permanently.
The I-Team also contacted the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) two weeks ago to discuss Double Hi, but did not receive a response until Tuesday. In an email, the FMCSA said it would cooperate with state authorities on their investigation into the tour bus company.
Double Hi's management refused to speak with the I-Team about its findings. But in an email, Armando Mena, Double Hi's Manager of Operations said the company believes its drivers have done “nothing illegal.”