A tour company based in northern Michigan has been ordered by federal transportation officials to cease operations and take its coaches out of service after six people were found traveling in the luggage compartment of a bus in Ohio.
The operations out-of-service order named Roger Haines and Haines Tours of Gladwin.
Issued Friday by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the order claims that on May 27 an Ohio State Highway Patrol officer found six of 62 passengers in a luggage area during an inspection of a bus traveling from Roscommon, Mich., to Clyde, Ohio.
The driver told the officer that the passengers were riding with the luggage because there was no more room on the bus, according to the order, which said the company's operations constitute an "imminent hazard."
Mattresses, pillows and unsecured luggage also were in the cargo area of the bus.
Clyde, Ohio, is about 235 southeast of Roscommon, Mich.
" ... Based upon your present state of unacceptable safety compliance regarding the unauthorized transportation of passengers in the cargo area of your motorcoaches, your motor carrier operations substantially increase the likelihood of serious injury or death if not discontinued immediately," the order continued.
A voicemail seeking comment from Haines Tours was left Saturday afternoon by The Associated Press.
Haines also was cited last year during a compliance review after Transportation officials learned a section of a bus luggage compartment was used as an unauthorized sleeping berth for drivers.
"Despite being warned in August, 2010 that it cannot transport people in the luggage compartment of its buses in violation of federal regulations, it continues to place people in the luggage compartment," Friday's order said.
The order said the company may resume operations of commercial vehicles after taking certain steps that include identifying the cause of its noncompliance and developing plans for dealing that noncompliance.
The closure was the second "imminent hazard" order in as many days. JCT Motor Coach, Inc., and its affiliated company, JT's Travel & Charter, Inc., of Atlanta, Ga., were ordered to stop operating passenger service for attempting to evade a previous out-of-service order by operating under a different name.
A recent string of deadly tour bus accidents has renewed attention to the problem. Two weeks ago, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration ordered Sky Express Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., to shut down after an accident in Virginia that killed four passengers and injured dozens of others. Within days, the government had to order the company to shut down again after investigators discovered the carrier was repainting its buses and continuing to sell tickets under the names 108 Tours and 108 Bus.