FMCSA vs. Small Bus Companies, the Southeastern Tours Case

Jefferson - governmentI wrote about FMCSA’s “Quick Strike” campaign against small bus companies back in February, 2014. This is DOT’s (remember DOT=FMCSA) war against anybody that transports passengers. They are aggressively auditing all of these carriers, and putting as many as possible out of business for any and all violations. I call it their “Death Strike” campaign.

It has been brought to my attention that a libertarian website called Reason.com has also posted two articles about FMCSA’s bus war. This is why we libertarians complain the media is entirely controlled by Democrats and statists. I am a libertarian, and I had never heard of Reason.com. Well, I have it bookmarked now.

Their first article was written back in March, 2014 about Southeastern Tours, formerly of North Carolina. They were audited in August, 2013 as part of the “Death Strike”. DOT uncovered a variety of paperwork violations, as well as two buses with Out of Service mechanical defects. As a result, in October, 2013, DOT pulled Southeastern Tours’ authority, placing them out of business.

Southeastern then entered “Bus Company Hell”, which is a place reserved for less-than-perfect small bus companies. DOT pretends these companies will have a chance to resume operations if they achieve spotless 100% compliance with the rules, but the reality is they will not. DOT will almost always find an excuse to deny these carriers permission to operate.

I reviewed the publicly available information in DOT’s Dockets on Southeastern Tours. This company was mugged by DOT. What happened to them is disgusting, and anyone associated with the mugging should hang their head in shame. According to DOT records, Southeastern has been in business since 1994. They have been audited 6 times during that time, the most recent in August, 2010. They achieved a Satisfactory rating in 2010. The worst that ever happened to Southeastern in all that time, and all those audits, was they paid a $3410 fine in 2003.

It’s possible that Southeastern’s operation went completely to hell between 2010 and 2013. I bet that’s not what happened. My 24 years of experience is guessing here, but I would bet $100,000 Southeastern was in the exact same condition in 2013 as it was in 2010 when it was audited. In 2010, it earned them a Satisfactory rating, with no fines. In 2013, their livelihood was taken from them.

How could this happen? Easy. Under “Death Strike”, DOT auditors dig and dig and dig, citing the most minute violations until they’ve piled up a mountain of minor violations. Voila! “You’re a hazard, Mr. Bus Company! You’re going to kill people! Look at all these violations!” They are simply applying a much different standard than had been applied previously. Again, Southeastern undergoes normal audit in 2010, everything is fine. Death Strike in 2013 = Death. The fact is, many of these Death Strike violations have absolutely no link to safety whatsoever, but that sure as hell doesn’t stop the government. It is absolutely disgusting.

This is what happens when a society has so many rules that no one knows what they all are, or how to possibly comply with them all. At any point in time, citizens are unknowingly breaking some rule. It’s just a matter of time before some government bureaucrat decides to enforce some previously unenforced rule, and boom, a new criminal is arrested.

There is a good quote in the Reason article from former Massachusetts State Police lieutenant, Paul Sullivan, who has extensive experience in the safety-compliance arena. Mr. Sullivan says, “The FMCSA has become much more interested in the publicity that goes with enforcement than with trying to improve the situation. The agency is stretching the intent of the regulation to make critical examples.” Lieutenant, you are 100% correct.

Just as villain Dr. Ferris said, in Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged”:
“Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

3 thoughts on “FMCSA vs. Small Bus Companies, the Southeastern Tours Case

  • October 17, 2014 at 10:32 am
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    The FMCSA is after power, and they are changing the laws to get that power. I believe the agency does not always care if the company is truly a hazard before they act to place them out of service. I do not know if the FMCSA cares about what actually happens to a person(s) life after they wield their sword. There are a few auditors that feel the power of the sword and they believe they are a god. Can’t the agency see that it is these select investigators that are overly aggressive and reel them in? Or is the agency looking to have only aggressive investigators in their employ?

  • February 11, 2015 at 1:35 am
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    I know of this company, simpletons can walk in any motorcoach, train yard, cruise ship doc or an airline on any given day and find you thousands of the same types of minor infractions. In fact, search FMCSA for a large motor coach carrier with “the dog” on the side and you will see major accidents/fatalities. THE FACT is this company did maintain their fleet, but any vehicle, YES even the one you are driving now, can have items that need adjustment at any second. Another FACT is that this small family business had safe operations for nearly 20 years. This is another example of government overreach, no matter your political persuasion.

  • February 26, 2015 at 7:10 pm
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    Bert, I keep waiting for DOT to prove me wrong. I keep waiting for this huge reduction in truck and bus crashes, because there certainly should be a giant reduction in crashes they way FMCSA is thrashing the industry, but it’s not happening. Nope, this is just enforcement for the sake of enforcement. Sad.

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