Exclusive: Fatal Queens crash sheds light on other bus companies with violations

Fatal Queens bus crash opens investigation into private bus drivers

Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Fatal Queens bus crash opens investigation into private bus drivers
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Jim Hoffer has the latest details on the investigation into the fatal Queens bus crash.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- 7 On Your Side Investigators found disturbing new information about the horrific and deadly bus crash that happened Monday in Queens.

Our exclusive report found the charter company that operates the bus that blew through an intersection and crashed into an MTA bus, killing three people, has been previously cited for violations.

NTSB investigators said the bus was going an estimated 60 miles per hour at the time of the crash.

The driver of that charter bus was among those killed. He had been fired by the MTA two years ago after he was busted for drunken driving. Now, the crash is raising new questions about the safety of charter buses.

Even before a driver for the Dahlia bus company slammed into an MTA bus, Dahlia was on the Federal Transportation Department's radar. They had been flagged for "unsafe driving" with 11 violations.

But there are other bus companies operating daily in Manhattan with far worse safety records. Near the top of that list, Yep Tour Buses. They roll in and out of Chinatown every day. Their passengers unaware of the more than 200 safety violations that have raised not one, not two but three red flags for the Massachusetts-based company.

"No I had no idea," said Joyce, a passenger.

Among the 212 Federal Motor Carrier Safety violations, YEP's Bus drivers have been caught speeding 21 times, and six of their drivers have been cited for working excessive hours which could cause fatigue and two drivers were operating without the required commercial driver's license.

"If you have 212 violations in 24 months for 10 buses that's a significant problem," commercial motor vehicle expert Scott L. Turner said.

YEP's fleet of 10 buses is operating under a "conditional" safety rating, meaning they are subject to more inspections by the transportation department. Still, YEP has a recent history of crashes, including one two years ago in Philadelphia when a YEP bus struck and killed a man crossing the street. The driver kept going.

In 2015, a YEP bus caught fire in South Carolina, the ensuing panic caused injury to four passengers.

"We've been doing better and better," a YEP Buses manager said.

The manager for YEP buses in Chinatown, says they have corrected their violations and are working to make the operation safer.

"We have training for NY drivers and we do have another training for the Philadelphia drivers and that's once a month," he said.

It's not just unsafe driving that worry inspectors but the condition of the buses which in the last two years have been taken out of service for having defective or no emergency exits, defective windshield wipers, and broken lights:

"I wouldn't let my family get on that bus...knowing what I know as a commercial vehicle expert," Turner said.

The Yep bus company finally responded in an email, claiming that a recent audit shows that the company had only one reportable accident last year. They say that is well-below the national average.


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