A surprise compliance review by the FMCSA has put a Fort Worth based passenger bus company out of service as an “imminent hazard”.
Autobuses Zacatecanos of Fort Worth Texas provides service to and from Zacatecas Mexico to points in the United States.
According to an article on Landlinemag.com which erroneously and deliberately misleads the public in stating a “FMCSA shuts down Mexican carrier”, that during a surprise inspection, investigators found so many safety and maintenance issues with Autobuses Zacatecanos’ fleet that all four of its buses were immediately placed out of service. According to the agency’s out-of-service order, investigators found 34 safety violations, including 15 that required the buses to immediately be placed out of service.
The entire out-of-service order can be read here.
This is part of FMCSA continuing efforts to get unsafe passenger carrying vehicles off the road in light of the many tragic accidents that have occurred in recent months.
Kudos to the FMCSA for catching this one.
Once Autobuses Zacatecanos complies and takes the corrective action outlined in the Out of Service order, they can reapply to have their authority reinstated.
The corrective actions required are immense and should have been in place before this company was granted operating authority in the first place.
CLOSER LOOK REVEALS FLAWS IN CSA AND SMS SCORES
For all the flaws and violations discovered during this companies review, many of them concerning record keeping and other administrative tasks required of all motor carriers operating in the US, a look at Autobuses Zacatecanos SMS BASICS shows something entirely different and shows how CSA can destroy a carriers rating with only a few inspections.
A good example is the FMCSA assertion that;
AUTOBUSES ZACATECANOS fails to control its drivers’ compliance with hours of service requirements, and AUTOBUSES ZACATECANO routinely allows its drivers to significantly exceed maximum driving times.
AUTOBUSES ZACATECANOS drivers do not record on-duty or driving time while in Mexico; trips completed by AUTOBUSES ZACATECANOS drivers begin in Zacatecas, Mexico, approximately 10 hours from the Mexico-United States international border and continue to California and Colorado.
AUTOBUSES ZACATECANOS’ commercial motor vehicles do not have compliant sleeper berths, and the carrier does not use en-route staged drivers.
All well and good although I don’t see whether they record HOS in Mexico is relevant or not, especially if they take a break after a 10 hour drive to the border. The human body is the best regulator or hours of service, but, I digress.
When we look at their SMS Scores in the Hours of Service BASIC, they show a score of 69.2%, well above the intervention threshold of 50%. This score is derived from only 28 inspections in a 24 month period that found a whole big whopping 9 violations of HOS rules.
What was the worst of these violations? One violation of 395.8(e) “False report of driver’s record of duty status” for which the driver was put Out of Service.And the rest?
The majority (5) of violations was for 395.8, “Driver’s record of duty status (general/form and manner)”. For those who aren’t familiar with this catch-all part of the regulations, it can be something as simple as not signing the log book. Forgetting to put miles traveled or the hours worked at the end of a specific line. Or perhaps you the driver drew a line crooked or something. You get the picture.
The remainder of the violations that at first glance at the SMS on this carrier make it look so bad?
- 395.5A1-PASS “Driving after 10 hour driving limit (Passenger carrying vehicle)” 1 violation
- 395.5(a)(2) “15 – hour rule violation (Passenger)” 1 violation
- 395.8(f)(1) “Driver’s record of duty status not current” 1 violation (driver probably stopped to pee and didn’t log it)
- 395.8(k)(2) “Driver failing to retain previous 7 days’ logs” 1 violation (OOS)
So from a handful of inspections over 24 month that netted only 9 violations, one of them very serious, this carriers score has skyrocketed and triggered an intervention.
When we look at their Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, we see it sits at 45.5%, well below the intervention threshold of 65%. 20 inspections revealing 46 violations, many minor, although one unit, inspected on 8/23/2012 had so many it should have been consigned to the junk yard. Absolutely no excuse for that thing being on any highway, US or Mexican.
When we look at the Driver Fitness BASIC, this really reveals the fallacy of the SMS scoring system and CSA in general. Autobuses Zacatecanos shows a whopping 99.9% score in the Driver Fitness BASIC based on 28 inspections over 24 months.
I’ve written extensively about the arbitrary and capricious nature of 391.11.(b)(2), the English language provision of the regulations and how it is up to the individual inspector to determine if the subject being interviewed speaks English “sufficiently” to be in compliance or shows a “good faith effort” to comply. We look at this company’s violation of this regulation and see that drivers were cited 8 times for violation of 391.11.(b)(2) and put Out of Service each of the 8 times. We also discover that 5 drivers were cited for violation of 391.11B2S, “Driver must be able to understand highway traffic signs and signals in the English language”. Our question to this would be, “who made this determination?”. Especially in view of the fact that in the 24 months covered by the data, Autobuses Zacatecanos had ZERO accidents of any type.
I would also call into question the remaining two violations listed on the carriers Driver Fitness BASIC, violation of 391.41(a), “Driver not in possession of Medical Certificate and a subsequent violation, 391.41A-FPC, “Operating a property-carrying vehicle without possessing a valid medical certificate. Previously Cited on [DATE]”, in all probability the same driver who was put Out of Service for the original violation. The question to be asked would be was this driver operating under a Mexican Licencia Federal (Mexican CDL) or with a Texas Commercial Drivers License? If it was the former, then the medical certificate is part of the LCF.
And finally, no Drug and Alcohol violations which one would expect if these drivers were routinely exceeding the Hours of Service limits.
The FMCSA was correct in intervening and issuing their Imminent Hazard Out of Service order. No doubts about that. The failure of the Fort Worth based carrier to maintain the required documentation and records is inexcusable and needs to be corrected before they’re allowed to operate again.