BOSTON (MyFoxBoston.com/AP) – The U.S. Department of Transportation has ordered Fung Wah Bus Transportation Inc. to stop carrying passengers and submit its 28 buses for detailed safety inspections.
Safety officials say they are examining safety records, drivers, and other performance requirements during an investigation of Fung Wah's operations. They said further action could be taken against the company if warranted.
State inspectors say they've found serious safety problems with Fung Wah buses operating between Boston and New York City and are asking federal transportation officials to declare the popular bus service an "imminent hazard," essentially shutting down the operation.
Department of Public Utilities Chairwoman Ann Berwick said that inspectors looked at nine buses used by Fung Wah Bus and found serious problems with eight, including cracks in their frames.
Berwick said the state negotiated an agreement with the company to take all 21 of their older buses off the road. Six of the company's buses were still operating prior to the Department of Transportation ordering them off the road on Tuesday.
In a letter written by Berwick, the chairwoman said it appears the company had tried to repair the latest problems, but in some cases only made them worse.
"The department has also noted that some of the attempted repairs made by Fung Wah to various buses appear to be substandard because the welds have not been completed and/or have failed and the cracks appear to be larger than they were when the buses were initially inspected," Berwick wrote.
On three of the buses, the issues were found during random inspections on Feb. 7. The DPU found another five buses had significant issues during inspections on Feb. 14.
An inspection report from Mass. State Police cited problems with a cracked frame, a loose row of seating, a leaking transmission and a body panel separating from the left drive wheel of one bus.
Berwick said she is asking the federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to pursue the "Imminent Hazard Order" for what she called the company's "blatant disregard for federal safety regulations and putting the company's own drivers, passengers, and the motoring public at risk."
Berwick wrote that Fung Wah "is currently incapable of maintaining a fleet of motor coaches."
The company, which operates between the Chinatown neighborhoods of Boston and New York, has had a history of troubles.
In 2006, the company was fined $31,100 for violating federal safety regulations linked to a rollover in Auburn that injured dozens of passengers traveling from New York to Boston. The Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration said Fung Wah improperly hired drivers who couldn't speak English and who regularly exceeded speed limits.
In 2005 a Fung Wah bus bound for New York caught fire in Meriden, Conn. All 45 passengers were evacuated moments before flames engulfed the bus.
A number of other bus companies have increased service from South Station to help with service interruptions, according to the DPU.