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Firm in Ore. bus crash told to halt US operations
Tuesday - 1/8/2013, 9:16pm EST
By STEVEN DUBOIS
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Transportation has revoked a Canadian travel company's authority to provide passenger service in the United States after determining a driver was not properly rested when his bus crashed on an Oregon highway last month, killing nine passengers and injuring 38.
The "imminent hazard" order filed Tuesday alleges that Mi Joo Tour & Travel fails to take basic measures to ensure its drivers are properly rested and routinely dispatches drivers without regard to hours of service requirements. The driver in the Oregon crash, Haeng Kyu Hwang of Vancouver, British Columbia, had been on duty for 92 hours in the eight-day stretch before the tragedy, exceeding the 70-hour federal limit, according to the findings of a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration investigation.
"The safety of all travelers on our highways and roads remains our highest priority," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in a statement. "We will move quickly to shut down bus companies that do not operate safely."
In another development, the agency said it suspended the company's authority to operate for two months early last year because the firm didn't pay a fine for failing to meet U.S. requirements for drug and alcohol testing.
Edward Kang, the owner of Mi Joo Tour & Travel, said in an email late Tuesday that the company is fully cooperating with the investigation. He declined to answer questions pertaining to the Transportation Department's order.
"Unfortunately, I cannot tell you anymore," he wrote.
The Oregon State Police and National Transportation Safety Board have yet to say what caused the Dec. 30 crash on Interstate 84 east of Pendleton.
The crash, Oregon's deadliest since 1971, occurred near a spot called Deadman Pass, at the top of a steep, seven-mile descent from the Blue Mountains. A truck had applied sand to the icy road a few hours before the crash and was behind the bus making another run when the vehicle driven by Hwang plowed through a guardrail and 200 feet down an embankment.
The posted speed limit is 65 mph for cars and 55 mph for trucks and buses. Police have not said how fast the bus was traveling or if driver fatigue was an issue.
The agency's order, signed by regional field administrator William Paden, states that an unannounced investigation began a few days after the crash and found "a management philosophy indifferent to motor carrier safety." It said the company does not monitor its drivers' hours of service or require them to submit records of duty status.
Other problems include neglecting to properly maintain driver-qualification requirements and vehicle-maintenance records, as well as a failure to require drivers to prepare driver-inspection reports.
"The ongoing compliance review and investigation has discovered a deterioration in your safety management controls and widespread safety violations that demonstrate a continuing and flagrant general disregard for compliance," the document states.
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)