Bus service to close, lost business after federal violations


by Joe Arnold


Posted on November 20, 2013 at 6:51 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 21 at 6:20 AM

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- Under heavy scrutiny after a June bus crash and losing business after a federal compliance review noted dozens of violations, Commonwealth Bus Service and Transportation is going out of business, according to sources and an internal Jefferson County Public School e-mail obtained by WHAS11 News.

The e-mail was sent on Monday from a JCPS Transportation Services Secretary to "bookkeepers" and more than a dozen school administrators. 

Commonwealth Bus Service, LLC, will close effective Nov. 30, 2013.  Therefore, any trips scheduled with Commonwealth Bus Service after Dec. 9, 2013, must be re-scheduled with another vendor listed on the bid tabulation. 

Commonwealth Bus 450 crashed on June 11 on I-64 near the Shelby and Jefferson County line as it carried 29 students and five adults home from a Waggener High School excursion to Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond.

All on board suffered injuries and six were critically injured.

The company continued to operate, including as a field trip and activities bus vendor for several local school districts.

Yet Commonwealth began losing major business in recent weeks as JCPS and Bullitt County Schools suspended its use of the carrier after learning details of a federal compliance review conducted after the June 11 crash.

Jefferson County Public Schools alone re-booked 258 November school trips with other operators.

On Nov. 12, Bullitt County Public Schools administrator Becky Sexton alerted principals, assistant principals and athletic directors of the district's decision "to suspend the use of Commonwealth Bus Service from this point forward."

The letter advised school leaders to secure "alternate common carriers and/or utilize district transportation."

On July 9, the FMCSA proposed an unsatisfactory rating indicating Commonwealth did "not have adequate safety management controls in place" and was "operating at an unacceptable level of compliance."

On Aug. 23, the FMCSA upgraded Commonwealth's rating to "Conditional," pending the company taking immediate action to address deficiencies found in the compliance review.

The Department of Transportation noted dozens of safety procedure violations at Commonwealth Bus Service, including insufficient drug testing, driver training, driver background investigation, maintenance and inspection records and operating unsafe vehicles.

Commonwealth's company profile on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration web portal indicates a Nov. 30, 2013 cancellation date of its insurance policy with Lancer Insurance Company of Cary, N.C.

Metro Police blame a blown left front tire for the June 11 crash and the compliance review revealed the front tires had been retrieved from a scrap tire bin by a friend of the bus owner who spoke to federal investigators.

Michael Goad, the owner of bus 450, admitted he had not conducted required annual inspections for "a few years" and that documents for major repair work after an earlier crash had been burned.