The Da Zhen bus company, whose tour bus rolled off a Southern California freeway on Thursday, is on "Alert Status" with the federal government, the NBC4 Los Angeles I-Team found while reviewing the company’s federal safety inspections.
"Alert Status" means the company has been flagged for its poor performance record and could be subject to more frequent surprise inspections, transportation experts tell the I-Team.
"It’s a poor safety record," says Paul Hedlund, an engineer and lawyer who litigates transportation accidents. "It’s not horrible, but it should be better."
The I-Team found that the Da Zhen bus company had three violations for "unsafe driving" during inspections this year, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). Two violations were for speeding, one was for following too close behind other cars.
"There’s no excuse for a tour bus speeding like this," Hedlund said.
In the "Unsafe Driving" category, the feds gave Da Zhen a score of 56.3 percent, meaning that the company is worse than the majority of other tour bus operators. If a company scores over 50% in that category, the FMCSA puts them on "Alert Status."
In terms of the maintenance of its buses, the I-Team found that Da Zhen has had 28 inspections in the last two years, with 11 of those inspections resulting in 25 violations. In two cases in 2012, the company’s buses were put out of service.
The company has passed all of its driver fitness inspections, including drug and alcohol tests. In one inspection in 2012, a driver was cited for "falsely reporting drivers record of duty status."
The I-Team found that before Thursday's crash, Da Zhen has had no history of crashes in the last two years.
The I-Team called Da Zhen for comment about it’s safety record, but a woman named "Tiffany" who answered the phone said no one was around to speak.
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