Bus company busted with passengers in luggage bin

Sure, flying can be such a hassle that you decide to drive or take the bus.

But bus passengers beware: make sure the seat you’re purchasing is in the bus, not under it.

A Michigan bus company that has been transporting passengers in its cargo compartments has been ordered to cease operating.

On Saturday, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced it had shut down Haines Tours of Gladwin, MI., calling it an “imminent hazard” to public safety.

According to the DOT, on May 27, 2011, when a Haines Tour bus traveling from Michigan to Ohio was inspected by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, it was discovered that six of the 62 passengers were riding in the luggage compartment along with unsecured baggage.

“Safety is everyone’s responsibility and it begins with practicing common sense,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “That means not putting human beings in cargo holds.”

This wasn’t the first time Haines Tours was found to be using its luggage bins inappropriately. In August 2010 the company was cited for using luggage bins as sleeping berths for drivers.

On Saturday the FMCSA also announced that it had issued an “imminent hazard” out-of-service order to North Carolina-based United Tours, Inc. for, among other things, using non-qualified drivers.

Earlier in the week, Atlanta-based JCT Motor Coach, Inc. was shut down for trying to evade a previous out-of-service order by operating under a different name. Under its other name, the company had been cited for numerous violations, including falsifying vehicle maintenance records and using drivers with positive drug and alcohol testing results.

Several recent deadly bus crashes have raised safety concerns about the nation’s charter and commercial buses. Over the recent Memorial Day holiday weekend a crash on Interstate 95 in Virginia left 4 people dead and dozens injured, while a bus rollover accident on Interstate 90 in Washington killed 2 people and injured more than 20 others. In March, 15 people died when a bus returning from a Connecticut casino fell from an elevated highway and hit a utility pole

Want to know if your tour bus company has been cited? The DOT now offers a pre-trip safety checklist encouraging travelers to review a bus company’s safety record, safety rating and DOT operating authority before climbing on board.

Photo courtesy Flickr Commons