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Texas Issues: Unsafe Trucks, Buses
GAO: Unsafe buses, trucks continue
operating under new company names
WASHINGTON The General Accounting Office (GAO) has issued a new report indicating that hundreds of truck and bus companies many of them in Texas which have been ordered to shut down are still operating, often by using different names.

A study by the GAO, quoted in a July 30 story by the Associated Press, found that at least 20 of the 220 or more commercial bus companies which had been ordered closed for federal safety violations were still operating under different names. 

The tactic is the same used by a company whose bus carrying a Catholic group near Dallas last year blew a retreaded tire and crashed, killing 17 people.

The GAO report mentioned offenders in nine states, including Texas, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, New York and Washington. The violators owe thousands of dollars in delinquent fines and have been charged with numerous violations, ranging from driver/operators being unlicensed or failure to test drivers for drug and alcohol use.

More than 1,000 commercial trucking firms are also believed to be violators operating under new names, the GAO report notes. Many of the violators are still using the same address, owner name and contact number, the study indicated.

"These companies pose a safety threat to the motoring public," wrote Greg Kutz, GAO's managing director for special investigations, noting that there were about 300 fatalities from bus crashes last year. "We believe that these carriers reincarnated into new companies to evade fines and avoid performing the necessary corrective actions."

The GAO said the agency with oversight over the problem, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Adminstration, did not have computer capability to correctly enforce the regulations, and noted that there is some ambiguity over whether states have enforcement rights as well.
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In the Texas crash, Iguala BusMex Inc. of Houston had received a Transportation Department number and was awaiting approval for a federal license when one of its buses crashed near Sherman on Aug. 8, 2008. 

The company was run by Angel de la Torre, who operated Angel Tours Inc., which was forced to take its vehicles out of interstate service just two months earlier after an unsatisfactory review by federal regulators.

The GAO report also noted that after a Texas bus company which was fined in October 2006 for driving an unsafe vehicle, it was found illegally transporting 33 passengers from Mexico into the U.S. and was fined again. 

Within a month, a new company opened with two of the same drivers, three of the same vehicles, the same last name for the company owner and virtually identical addresses. The new firm operated for 18 months before it was cited for drug testing violations in September 2008 and it was ordered out of service last month.

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