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Federal safety officials shut down Maryland tour bus company

Tourism and LeisureTour Operations IndustryCredit and Debt

A tour bus company with headquarters in Maryland has been shut down by federal safety officials after an investigation determined its drivers and vehicles pose an imminent hazard to public safety.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Wednesday ordered Washington DC Party Shuttle, which also does business as Onboard DC Tours, to immediately cease all operations for "egregious" violations that demonstrated "blatant disregard for motor coach passenger safety."

The bus company has offices at National Harbor in Prince George's County and operates primarily as a tour bus service in the Washington metropolitan area, New York City and Las Vegas. The shut-down order lists five buses, all with DC license plates.

"Every passenger stepping onto a commercial bus or van is entitled to a safe driver and safe vehicle, regardless of whether it is a major carrier, a curb-side operation, a charter or, in this case, a party and tour service," said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro.

The investigation found that the company did not ensure that its drivers complied with federal drug and alcohol testing requirements. One employee, known to have failed a drug test, was repeatedly allowed to drive a passenger vehicle, investigators said. The company also was cited by FMCSA for not having an adequate vehicle maintenance program; it failed seven of its last eight quarterly inspections.

This marks the first shutdown of a commercial bus operator following the deployment earlier this month of more than 50 safety investigators targeting high-risk passenger carriers.

Calls to the company's offices were not answered.

Federal records show Onboard DC Tours has 14 drivers and seven buses. The owner is listed as Thomas Schmidt, a lawyer with a Houston, Texas, mailing address. The company has twice before had its operating authority revoked by FMCSA.

The order includes a dozen corrective steps the company and Schmidt must take before federal officials will consider allowing it back in service.

Consumers who purchased a ticket by credit card may be entitled to a credit from their credit card company under the Fair Credit Billing Act, the agency said.

To review a bus company's safety record, FMCSA offers a free SaferBus app at its "Look Before You Book" web page.

candy.thomson@baltsun.com

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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