Caught: bus drivers breaking the rules

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) —  For $40 or less, you can buy a round trip ticket, get on a bus and spend the day at one of Connecticut’s two casinos.

That ticket even pays for lunch and free slot play.

For hundreds of riders every day, it is a deal that they take full advantage of. For the buses and their drivers, going to those casinos holds a chance that State of Connecticut inspectors will be waiting to take an in-depth look at the buses and their mechanics. The News 8 Investigators reviewed thousands of inspection reports to uncover a pattern of buses being in such poor disrepair that they had to be taken out of service.

The state Department of Motor Vehicles is funded by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to staff the inspections. For out of state companies, it is the only place that they can be inspected.

The results are put into a federal database called “Safer”. (link: https://safer.fmcsa.dot.gov/CompanySnapshot.aspx)

The buses on Connecticut roads show broken windshields or windows, brakes in disrepair or leaking fluids. If inspectors deem them bad enough, the buses are taken off of the road altogether. Nearly half of all of the issues found in buses since 2010 were issues so severe, the buses were taken out of service.

“Don’t make the assumption when you put your child on a bus that that vehicle has been seen,” said Transportation Safety Exchange Jolanda Janczewski. She said fewer than 1 in 3 of the buses on U.S. roads have ever been seen.

“It’s a scary thought, but it is what it is: We just don’t have enough government labor to look at every motor carrier out there.”

In nine bus rides taken by the News8 Investigators, we identified issues not just with the buses themselves, but with the drivers. Drivers were texting, reading and eating breakfast, all while behind the wheel of a loaded bus. We showed the video to James Rio, Commercial Vehicle Safety Division Chief with the DMV.

“It’s reckless. It’s inconsiderate,” said Rio. “That driver should not be operating a passenger vehicle. In fact, after we showed the video to the driver’s boss at Dattco, a  Connecticut company that operates school buses as well, the driver was fired. It was a blemish they did not want on their federal record. Records that Janczewski said are far too incomplete.

“Its extremely difficult to get information on [bus companies],” she said.

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