I have handled cases in which a trucking company simply changes names when the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration says it can no longer operate for safety reasons. In one of my cases, a jury handed down a punitive damages verdict for a company that repeatedly re-formed under new names following safety violation citations.
An eye-popping recent news event brings that case to mind.
A Michigan tour operator was caught transporting live people in cargo compartments. Calling the practice an “imminent hazard” to public safety, the FMCSA ordered Michigan bus operator Roger Haines, who does business as Haines Tours out of Gladwin, Michigan, to immediately stop all passenger service.
“People’s lives were needlessly placed at risk,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and it begins with practicing common sense. That means not putting human beings in cargo holds.”
An Ohio State Highway Patrol in Lake Township, Ohio, inspected a Haines bus on May 27 and found that six of the 62 passengers were riding in the cargo hold, along with loose baggage. Back in August 2010, Haines was cited for using a bus’s luggage compartment as a sleeper berth for drivers.
From the Out-of-Service order: “Despite being warned in August 2010 that it cannot transport people in the luggage compartment of its buses in violation of federal regulations, [Haines Tours] continues to place people in the luggage compartment …. This Imminent Hazard Order is necessary to put an immediate stop to this highly dangerous practice.”
Is It an Identity Evasion Epidemic?
This was the second time in a week that the FMCSA slapped a passenger carrier company with an “imminent hazard” OOS order. On June 9, Atlanta-based JCT Motor Coach, Inc., and its affiliate, JT’s Travel & Charter, Inc., were ordered to stop operating passenger service, because they’d tried to evade an OOS order by operating under a different name.
It’s a popular ruse. On June 3, FMCSA issued a cease and desist order against Charlotte, N.C.-based Sky Express, Inc., which was trying to sell tickets under a different company name, including 108 Tours and 108 Bus.