CHINATOWN — The federal Department of Transportation permanently revoked the license for Fung Wah, a pioneer carrier in Chinatown's low-cost bus market with a checkered safety record, when it stopped cooperating with safety inspectors after the agency pulled its entire fleet from the road earlier last week.
Fung Wah failed to cooperate with safety investigators after it blocked access to some of its safety records, causing its license to be canceled, according to a statement from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), a DOT agency. More than a week ago, 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.
"Bus companies that jeopardize public safety and refuse to cooperate with our investigators have no place on the road, and now, thanks to our additional authority, we can take them off," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the statement.
This is the first time the FMCSA has revoked a license since President Barack Obama signed a law in July 2012 giving the administration authority to pull the license of a motor carrier if the company fails to comply with safety investigators, according to the statement.
Previously, the company's regular schedule included up to 24 round trips daily to Boston for $15 a ticket. A call to the company's offices in New York Monday went unanswered.
The temporary "Out-of-Service-Order" issued by the FMCSA last Tuesday noted the "noncompliant, unsafe and dangerous conditions" of Fung Wah's buses and that 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 that pulled Fung Wah's entire fleet off the road to be examined by safety inspectors.
Prior to last Tuesday's action, the UPS in Massachusetts had already ordered 21 Fung Wah buses off the road 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.
Fung Wah, which had been in business for 10 years, and 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.
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.