As part of a nationwide crackdown on private tour bus companies, federal regulators have ordered a Los Angeles carrier to immediately cease operations because of widespread safety problems that endangered its employees and the traveling public.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration took action Thursday against John Andrew Ciego, whose company It's Good Promotion presented an "imminent hazard" to coach operators, passengers and motorists.
According to case records, investigators found that Ciego's firm did not properly repair, inspect or maintain vehicles and operated unsafe buses from four other companies that had been previously shut down by the motor carrier administration.
Regulators also discovered the company did not ensure drivers were tested for drug and alcohol use, allowed a driver who tested positive for illegal drugs to work, and employed drivers who did not hold valid U.S. commercial licenses nor met medical qualifications for coach operators.
"Safety is our top priority, and we are working hard to thoroughly investigate and shut down bus companies that put people in harm's way," said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. "Deliberately evading federal safety regulations that protect travelers on our highways and roads has serious consequences and will not be tolerated."
Company officials could not be reached for comment Friday. The firm operated at least 16 buses and offered charter service between Los Angeles and Mexico.
The case against It's Good Promotion began Dec. 1 when a bus with company markings was stopped for inspection while crossing into the United States at the port of entry in Otay Mesa in San Diego.
Inspectors discovered the vehicle had been ordered out of service two weeks earlier by the motor carrier administration. In addition, 17 serious safety defects were found, 14 of which individually required the bus to be immediately removed from the road.
Authorities noted that the vehicle's driver attempted to cross the border earlier that day in El Paso, Texas, but was denied entry by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents due to the previous out-of-service order.
As the matter unfolded, investigators said they found that the firm's name and its federal identification number were being used to create a shell company by four motor carriers and commercial vehicle owners who had received earlier orders to halt operations because of safety violations.
The investigation of Ciego's firm is part of a national safety campaign prompted by fatal bus crashes in four states that killed 25 people and injured more than 80 in the past year.
At least 53 companies have been shut down in 19 states since early November when the National Transportation Safety Board criticized the motor carrier administration for lax oversight of the charter bus and commercial trucking industries.
The NTSB cited a deadly bus crash in San Bernardino County in February that killed eight people and injured a dozen more. Although the bus company, Scapadas Magicas in National City, received an alert for maintenance problems it was not ordered to halt service until after the fatal crash.
It's Good Promotion is the second bus company in the Los Angeles area to receive an order to cease operations. Federal records show that Salcido Tours lost its permit to operate on Nov. 19 after safety problems were found in three of its four buses.