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Fung Wah Bus Fleet Pulled Off Road Over Safety Concerns

By Serena Solomon | February 26, 2013 12:30pm
 Passengers board a Fung Wah bus in Chinatown.
Passengers board a Fung Wah bus in Chinatown.
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DNAinfo/Patrick Hedlund

CHINATOWN — The federal Department of Transportation has temporarily shut down Fung Wah, the low-cost bus company with a checkered safety record that runs routes between New York City and Boston, pulling its entire fleet of 28 buses off the road Tuesday over safety concerns.

Fung Wah, a pioneer in the so-called low cost Chinatown bus market, was labeled an "imminent hazard to the public" and ordered to temporarily cease operations, according to a "Out-of-Service Order" issued by the department's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

The order comes following an inspection in Boston over the weekend by the Massachusetts state's Department of Public Utilities (UPS) found cracks in the frames of numerous Fung Wah buses and recommended the FMCSA revoke the company's license.

Last month, two Chinatown pedestrians were struck by a Fung Wah bus amid a push by city, state and federal authorities to better regulate numerous low-cost bus carriers, many of which use the streets of Chinatown as bus stops.

The "Out-of-Service-Order" noted the "noncompliant, unsafe and dangerous conditions" of Fung Wah's buses and its "failure to adequately maintain and repair its older fleet" increased the "likelihood of serious injury or death" to its own drivers, passengers and the public.

Fung Wah does not have an effective vehicle maintenance program and does not "systematically inspect, repair, and maintain... certain older motor vehicles" in its fleet, according to the order.

The FMCSA ordered the company to provide its entire fleet of 28 buses to federal inspectors as well as examining Fung Wah's operations, including safety records of vehicles and drivers, according to the department. 

The UPS in Massachusetts had already ordered 21 Fung Wah buses off the road on Saturday after an inspection found "[t]his carrier lacks an understanding of basic federal Safety Management System requirements and is currently incapable of maintaining a fleet of motor coaches," UPS wrote in its letter to the FMCSA.

State inspectors first found cracks in the bus frames on Feb. 7 and returned a few weeks later to discover the repairs to be "substandard because the welds have not been completed and/or have failed," according to the letter.

The department then asked 21 buses built before 2005 from Fung Wah's fleet of 28 be taken off the road. The carrier complied.

A woman answering the phone for Fung Wah said the company is not currently running buses, but declined to give an offical comment. The company's regular schedule includes up to 24 round trips daily to Boston for $15 a ticket.

Fung Wah and the numerous other carriers that use the streets of Chinatown as bus stops have come under harsher safety scrutiny in recent years.

Low-cost, intercity buses companies have been involved in a spate of accidents over the past 18 months, including a March 2011 crash that left 15 people dead when a Chinatown-bound bus flipped over in The Bronx.

Two months later, the federal government shut down 26 bus lines running through Chinatown.

The state created a new law in 2012 requiring bus companies to apply for permits for bus stop locations, which will be designated by the city's Department of Transportation.

The new law also requires bus companies to disclose information about their fleets, including schedules, where the buses park during layovers, the number and types of buses and the number of passengers each bus can carry.