The Federal Motor Carrier said Deseret Bus Service in Woods Cross, Utah must cease all intrastate and interstate operations for "repeatedly operating unsafe vehicles and for failing to comply with a 2014 federal consent order."
As a result, Legacy Preparatory Academy must find a new way to get its kids to school when the new year starts on Aug. 19, and 10 different districts must find a new field trip provider, said owner Clarence Newman. He said the company, which has been in existence since 1977, can also no longer provide summer field trip service to the Church of Latter Day Saints and to local Boy Scouts troops.
Newman conceded in a phone call with STN that the company was at fault for out-of-service violations and for not conducting proper pre-trip inspections, but he also said he believes that local state inspectors have a vendetta against him. Meanwhile, Murrell Martin, state director of student transportation at the Utah State Offfice of Education, explained that the increased scrutiny on bus contractors and school districts is a result of stricter standards. These were put into place five years ago shortly after the 15th National Congress on School Transportation and were expanded a year later in 2011 "as a part of Utah Transportation Motor Carrier Rule R909-3 for all school bus entities and operations in Utah."
Newman also confirmed a Dec. 15, 2013 cease order from FMCSA that the agency said was given in response to an unsatisfactory safety rating following a compliance review. Six months later, FMCSA completed its review of Deseret Bus' safety management plan that was required by the federal consent order. FMCSA then upgraded Deseret Bus' safety rating to conditional, as long as the company "implemented its safety management plan and complied with terms of the order."
FMCSA also argued that Deseret Bus repeatedly failed vehicle inspections conducted between January and May of this year. The Administration said the company was found to have buses with defective brakes and brake warning systems, insufficient tire tread, broken leaf springs and exhaust leaks. Previously, Deseret Bus had agreed to submit quarterly reports to FMCSA's Utah Division and to provide updated lists of drivers, records of duty status summaries, driver vehicle inspection reports and all annual and roadside or terminal inspections. But inspectors continued to find discrepancies, and Newman added that two weeks ago he terminated son Jack, the driver FMCSA did not mention by name its statement issued last week, who "knowingly operated a vehicle that had been placed out of service before it was repaired."
"In its federal consent order, Deseret had also agreed to immediately terminate any driver who knowingly operated a vehicle that had been placed out-of-service before it was repaired," FMCSA said in a statement. "On multiple occasions, a single driver was found to repeatedly operate a Deseret vehicle that had been placed out-of-service," read the statement.
Newman said the cease order has already cost him $150,000 and he owes more in fines. He is filing an appeal, but said FMCSA has 30 days to respond. In the meantime, his fleet of 20 buses sits parked, and he had to tell Legacy Prepatory Academy parents that they need to find another way to get their children to school starting Aug. 19. He also said he told the parents the earliest that Deseret Bus could get back up and running would be October.
"I'm going to beat this and get back into service because we need to be," he added.
But Nyman Brooks, the new executive director at Legacy Prep told STN that the school has not contracted directly with Deseret Bus "for five or six years," and he added he had no knowlege of the company working directly with parents.
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