WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has ordered a Chester, S.C. church to cease all intrastate and interstate commercial transportation after a federal investigation found it to pose an imminent hazard to public safety. The federal order was served on November 7, 2016.
On September 18, 2016, a motor coach commercially operated by Sandy River Baptist Church, USDOT No. 2445628, was transporting a junior college football team from Rock Hill, S.C. to Raeford, N.C. when a front wheel failed, causing the vehicle to swerve and strike a median guardrail and a concrete bridge support along U.S. 74 near Rockingham, N.C. The crash resulted in four fatalities and 39 injuries.
The imminent hazard designation was made following a post-crash investigation conducted by FMCSA safety investigators in coordination with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. On the day of the crash, Sandy River Baptist Church was registered with FMCSA as a “private passenger carrier,” but had failed to comply with driver qualification requirements or to properly monitor its drivers to ensure compliance with maximum hours-of-service requirements prohibiting fatigued operation of commercial motor vehicles; and failed to sufficiently implement a random alcohol and drug testing program for its drivers.
Federal safety regulations require that any entity transporting passengers in interstate commerce for a fee or other compensation must obtain both USDOT operating authority registration and USDOT safety registration. In applying for and in receiving USDOT operating authority registration, a business or a non-profit entity – including church organizations – affirms both the knowledge of and the ability to fully satisfy all vehicle and driver safety regulations that serve to protect drivers, passengers, and the motoring public.
In addition to possessing the necessary USDOT safety registration, under federal safety regulations, all commercial or “for-hire” passenger carriers operating in interstate commerce must maintain a minimum of $5 million in liability insurance documented on-file with FMCSA as a condition of operating authority registration.
Failure to comply with the provisions of a federal imminent hazard out-of-service order may result in action by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for equitable relief, as well as and civil penalties. Civil penalties of up to $25,705 may be assessed for each violation of the order. Knowing and/or willful violation of the order may also result in criminal charges.
A copy of the imminent hazard out-of-service order can be viewed here.*
As part of FMCSA’s work to make safety data readily available to the traveling public, the SaferBus mobile app gives bus riders a quick and free way to review a bus company’s safety record before buying a ticket or booking group travel. The app, available for iPhone, iPad, and Android phone users, can be downloaded for free by visiting FMCSA’s “Look Before You Book” webpage at http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/saferbus.
Travelers planning a bus trip are also encouraged to think safety first before buying a ticket or chartering a bus by using FMCSA’s multilingual passenger carrier safety checklist at: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/lookbeforeyoubook.
FMCSA urges consumers and whistleblowers to report any unsafe bus company, vehicle, or driver to the agency through a toll free hotline, 1-888-DOT-SAFT (1-888-368-7238), or FMCSA’s consumer complaint web site: http://nccdb.fmcsa.dot.gov/HomePage.asp.