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Atlantic City Bus Management Rules

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In the Spring of 2017, as the result of numerous exchanged correspondence and consultations with Counsel for the SJTA, I was able to confirm that the Bus Management Rules had expired in late 2016 and were not re-enacted or replaced. [Note: The original enactment of the Bus Management Rules had a 7 year life, and additionally had a limited time period within which they could have been renewed for an additional 7 year period, which did not happen.]  Consequently, I advised on my Blog and to my many clients that travel to Atlantic City that there were no longer any requirements that Bus Operators purchase the Daily Permits or Fleet Medallions, no parking restrictions and no route restrictions into or out of Atlantic City.

Thereafter, SJTA published in the NJ Register a Notice of Proposed Rule Making by which they formally acknowledged that their Rules of Operation had expired on November 16, 2016 and they were proposing to adopt new Rules of Operation.

The “new” Rules of Operation leave it up to the individual bus operators going to Atlantic City to use whichever routes within the City and County that they choose; allow the operator to park in any legal lot or location; eliminate the requirement for Permits and Medallions; and eliminate the issuance of summonses by SJTA.


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NJ’s #1 Transportation Law Firm

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Our law firm is heavily involved in the management of the NJ bus industry. Not only do we represent individual bus and limousine companies, large and small, but over the past 30 years, our firm has served as Legal Counsel to the following Associations:

NJ Motorbus Association
NJ School Bus Association
Newark Airport Limousine Association
Atlantic City Bus Owner’s Association
Greater NJ Motorcoach Association

We know and understand your business. So if you need a Transportation Law Attorney to represent your company, or just to handle an individual matter such as filing an Application for Operating Authority or to represent you in a local Court for a violation of law, please call NJ’s #1 Transportation Law Firm – Jerry A. Casser, P.C.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Getting a DOT Number

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I often get phone calls from new bus operators asking me if I can get them their DOT Number. What does that actually mean? First, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will issue a Certificate to you to operate Charter and Special Operations or Regular Route Service across state lines and issue an MC Number, which is a Registration Number that goes on your Insurance and also issue a DOT Number which goes on the side of your bus. States also issue “Numbers” through their DOT’s or PUC’s for operations entirely within their states.

Our law firm submits the Applications for you and does all of the work except getting insurance for you. We arrange for the BOC-3 which is the designation of Agents in each state. We also monitor the status of the filing and advise on any issue that arises so that you can be up and running as quickly as possible.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Marketing Your Company – State Bus Associations

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One of the best marketing ideas for your bus company is to join a State Bus Association. I personally have been an active Member of two, BANY (Bus Association of New York) and GNJMA (Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association) which succeeded ACBOA  (Atlantic City Bus Owners Association), for which I served as Legal Counsel for 25 or so years. These Associations employ lobbyists and keep their ears to the ground on all issues involving the bus industry in their states, and carry the weight that you, as an individual bus or bus company owner, cannot do, to influence legislation. Whether it a parking or a tax issue, the Associations can speak for a large group of operators and accomplish so much to benefit your business.

As an example, when I served as Counsel to GNJMA(Greater NJ Motorcoach Association), I was able to persuade the South Jersey Transportation Authority that their enabling legislation, which permitted SJTA to restrict routes of travel in Atlantic City, require daily fees for entering the City, and force operators to park at one high priced parking facility, was no longer valid, thereby opening up opportunities for buses to travel to AC less hampered by government intrusion.

If you regularly travel to NYC, join BANY (Bus Association of New York). If you regularly travel to AC, join GNJMA (Greater NJ Motorcoach Association). Neither is especially expensive and they both have a basketful of benefits for the price of a membership.  If you would like more information on either Association, please feel free to contact me.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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NJ MVC No Longer Seems To Be Issuing Operating Authority

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The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission, which has regulatory control over bus companies operating within the State of NJ, has apparently stopped issuing operating authority and is simply allowing bus companies to operate as they see fit. The Agency does not issue Charter Authority, directing applicants instead to the FMCSA, with its higher insurance requirements, and whenever possible doing the same with Regular Route Authority except in those instances where the Route has no relationship or nexus with interstate operations.

I have, however, been successfully obtaining Shuttle Bus or Van Authority for vans and minibuses serving temporary employment agencies, shuttling temps to their work locations when they have no other available transportation, but that’s it.

The MVC over the last decade has operated as a one man shop and under the Murphy Administration, further cost cutting is expected and complete elimination of regulatory oversight is to be expected.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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USDOT – Safety Compliance

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It’s amazing how many start-ups in the bus and limo industry have no idea of what is required for safety compliance. How many times have I heard someone say, I’m a rookie, no one told me? When the rookies come to see me, they have already been assessed monstrous penalties by USDOT and put out of service. So, if you are new to interstate passenger transportation, look for help and consult with your friends in the business who have been operating for years to see what you should be doing before it’s too late.

There are also a number of DOT Compliance companies out there who can set up your files, provide you with a checklist of what you need, i.e. Drivers’ applications, employment inquiries, CDL’s, Drivers’ Abstracts, Logs, etc. Or you can get a complete kit from J.J. Keller which tells you what is needed in the file.

However, when you’re late in the game to compliance, and find yourself behind the 8 ball and in imminent danger of a shut down, we can help.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. – Transportation Law Attorney (Fairfield, NJ)


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BusCon switches from Chicago to Indiana in 2014

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BusCon Expo, the most extensive gathering of private and public-sector decision makers in the bus industry for more than 17 years, will switch locations in 2014 to the Indiana Convention Center, Halls F & G, in Indianapolis, Sept. 15 to 17, 2014. In 2013, the Expo will return to Chicago’s Navy Pier Sept. 10 to 11. [Reprinted from Metro Magazine]

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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NYS DOT Contract Carrier Authority

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When does a bus operator require NYS DOT Contract Carrier Authority and when is it exempt? This issue has come up a lot lately, as we assist operators after they have received NOV’s from NYS DOT.

Here’s the scoop. If your contract is with a company to transport its employees from the company’s offices to another local destination, you do not need Contact Carrier Authority. It is an exempt service. If your contract is with an apartment building to transport its residents to another local destination, then you are required to obtain an NYS DOT Permit for Contract Carrier Service.

It is difficult to confuse the two types of operations, and it is well worth your while to get the necessary Permit to avoid NOV’s for illegal operations and possibly Summonses for your drivers. Potential fines and penalties, plus legal fees, make this a no brainer.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com

 

 


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US DOT Shuts Down Asian Bus Operators

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Last May, the US DOT took the very serious step of shutting down 26 Asian motor carriers who were considered to be “unsafe operators”, this following a series of well-publicized bus accidents in the Northeast. The companies were placed in 3 Groups and offered an ultimatum that the members of each Group consolidate into one company and present a Corrective Action Plan to explain how they would become compliant.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, however you wish to view the situation, the US DOT is not anxious to allow these companies to begin operating again because the entire matter has become a political hot potato. So, no matter what has been submitted, it has been rejected, and all the while, a good many of these companies have been forced to leave the industry because of it.

The US DOT, in trying to be careful, is operating at a sloth’s pace, and it remains to be seen whether any of the companies ever see the road again. Stay tuned for updates.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Attention: NJ Bus Operators

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If your buses travel to NYC and you receive motor vehicle violations which require you to appear in NY Criminal Court to answer the Summonses, be aware of the fact that as corporations, you must be represented by Legal Counsel and may have to have a representative of your company appear in Court as well.

Our law firm specializes in all transportation matters for bus companies and we are admitted to practice in NJ and in NY.  We can make the appearances for you, usually without a representative from your company appearing, and negotiate the best possible settlement of the violations charged against your company.  If the violations are equipment related, i.e. brake lights, warning triangles,first aid kits, leaking oil or transmission fluid, etc., proof that the repairs have been done within 24 hrs. is generally accepted to permit a dismissal and waiver of penalties.

Please call our firm for legal respresentation if you receive any Summonses in NYC (all 5 Boroughs).  Additionally, we can handle all of your NJ Municipal Court appearances in North Jersey.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com

 


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Attention: NY Bus Operators

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If your buses travel to NJ or NYC and you receive motor vehicle violations which require you to appear in NJ Municipal Courts or NYC Criminal Court to answer the Summonses, be aware of the fact that as corporations, you must be represented by Legal Counsel and may have to have a representative of your company appear in Court as well.

Our law firm specializes in all transportation matters for bus companies and we are admitted to practice in NJ and in NY.  We can make the appearances for you, usually without a representative from your company appearing, and negotiate the best possible settlement of the violations charged against your company.  If the violations are equipment related, i.e. brake lights, warning triangles,first aid kits, leaking oil or transmission fluid, etc., proof that the repairs have been done within 24 hrs. is generally accepted to permit a dismissal and waiver of penalties.

Please call our firm for legal respresentation if you receive any Summonses in NJ or NYC.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com

 


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Attention: Pennsylvania Bus Operators

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If your buses travel to NJ or NYC and you receive motor vehicle violations which require you to appear in NJ Municipal Courts or NY Criminal Courts to answer the Summonses, be aware of the fact that as corporations, you must be represented by Legal Counsel and may have to have a representative of your company appear in Court as well.

Our law firm specializes in all transportation matters for bus companies and we are admitted to practice in NJ and in NY.  We can make the appearances for you, usually without a representative from your company appearing, and negotiate the best possible settlement of the violations charged against your company.  If the violations are equipment related, i.e. brake lights, warning triangles,first aid kits, leaking oil or transmission fluid, etc., proof that the repairs have been done within 24 hrs. is generally accepted to permit a dismissal and waiver of penalties.

Please call our firm for legal respresentation if you receive any Summonses in NJ or NYC.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com

 

 

 

 


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Subrogation/Property Damage Claims for Bus – NJ

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In today’s economic environment, a bus or limousine company’s ability to recover the cost of repair for damage to its vehicles is more important than ever. Insurance companies are not voluntarily making payments and they have to be pushed very hard to do so. When your claim is being handled by an attorney, they realize that you mean business, and the insurance companies’ costs will rise if the matter goes into litigation. Therefore, they will take the claim more seriously.

Our law firm specializes in first party property damage claims for buses (coaches, school buses, minibuses, vans) and for limousines (sedans and stretches). We are known in the bus industry as subrogation or property damage recovery attorneys. We work on a contingent fee basis, so no recovery, no fee. However, please understand that we do not take cases where it is clear that your driver is at fault. As a consequence, we recover for the damage in virtually all cases, and frequently recover for loss of use of the vehicle.

The recoveries that we may obtain on your behalf go straight to your bottom line – very important today. So, if you need a subrogation attorney to recover for your company’s damages arising from motor vehicle accidents in NJ, contact us through the website address noted below. A majority of our cases are in Essex, Passaic, Bergen, Hudson, Union and Morris Counties, but we are not limited geographically in NJ unless the case arises in South Jersey and involves too small a sum of money to justify litigating, i.e. $2,500.00 or less.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com

 


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Charter Bus Operators Do Not Have to Purchase Apportioned Plates

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Charter bus operators in the U.S. and Canada have been spared from having to purchase apportioned license plates after a proposal requiring the action failed to pass.

The United Motorcoach Association (UMA), along with the National Tour Association (NTA) and Motor Coach Canada (MCC), partnered in a campaign to speak out against the International Registration Plan (IRP) proposal to eliminate the exemption granted to charter bus operators and force most of them to buy apportioned license plates.

In a pre-ballot survey, 50 of the U.S. states and Canadian provinces that are members of IRP — the organization governing vehicle registration of out-of-jurisdiction buses and trucks — approved the change to the exemption, thus prompting an official vote. The elimination proposal needed the support of 75 percent of IRP members to be approved; however, the vote failed to reach the support benchmark and was not passed.

Collaborative letters were sent out to voting members from Victor Parra, UMA president/CEO and Lisa Simon, NTA president, urging members to vote against the proposal citing the negative impact to travel and tourism and the higher costs that would have to be endured by motorcoach operators to obtain apportioned license plates.

A second letter was also sent by Parra outlining safety statistics of the motorcoach industry and asking members to put their confidence in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA program to monitor and enforce motorcoach safety and vote “no” to IRP’s proposal.

“Based on the pre-ballot survey, this proposal was expected to pass easily, but for the past month, we’ve lobbied hard on this issue with our partners from the MCC and NTA,” said Parra. “IRP was hoping to get states searching for new sources of revenue to support the elimination of the exemption without thinking about the overall consequences of their decision.”

The partners reacted quickly and sent communications to state/provincial directors of tourism, governors and directly to the voting IRP members, according to Parra. “Both NTA and MCC helped greatly in this effort. Thankfully we were able to turn this around and the result was enough “no” votes to kill the proposal,” he said.   Reprinted from Metro Magazine.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. – NJ Transportation Law Attorney (www.jcasser.com)


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Greater NJ Motorcoach Association Announces Directors for 2011-12

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May 25th, 2011 – The Greater New Jersey Motorcoach Association announced its Board of Directors and Officers for 2011-2012 at its Annual Meeting held at Resorts International in Atlantic City, NJ.  Serving as President is Tim Stout, Stout’s Transportation, Trenton, NJ; Vice President is Mark R. Waterhouse, Classic Tours, Lakewood, NJ; Secretary is Mitchell Sussman, Starr Tours, Trenton, NJ; Treasurer is Joseph P. Fernandez, CPA, West Islip, NY; Other Board members are; David Benedict, David Tours & Travel, Philadelphia, PA; Thomas Dugan, Safety Bus, Pennsauken, NJ; Scott E. Henry, Martz Lines, Wilkes-Barre, PA; Nate Karp, Greyhound Lines, New York, NY; Wayne Klein, Klein’s Bus Service, Inc., Douglasville, PA; James Murphy, Saddle River Tours, Wallington, NJ; Thomas JeBran, Trans-Bridge Lines, Bethlehem, PA.; Tom Taylor, Lakeland Bus Lines, Dover, NJ;. Executive Director is Andrea C. Malamut, Cherry Hill, NJ and Legal Counsel is Jerry Casser, Esq., Fairfield, NJ.  

Jerry A. Casser – Transportation Law Attorney (Fairfield, NJ) www.jcasser.com

 


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Update on Bus Safety Regulations

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Note: This was proposed in December 2009 – apparently nothing has happened and the Agency is awaiting comment from the industry and other interested persons.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to propose rulemaking early next year to require seat belts on motorcoaches.

The DOT has released its Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, which lays out concrete steps for improving motorcoach safety issues such as driver fatigue and inattention, vehicle rollover, occupant ejections and oversight of unsafe carriers.

The comprehensive action plan proposes enhanced regulatory oversight of new and high risk motorcoach operators, as well as the increased use of new technologies. To address driver distraction, it proposes to initiate rulemaking to prohibit texting and limit the use of cell phones and other devices by motorcoach drivers.

It also discusses requiring electronic on-board recording devices on all motorcoaches to better monitor drivers’ duty hours to address fatigue, and enhanced oversight of unsafe carriers.

In addition, the action plan proposes to better protect motorcoach occupants by requiring the installation of seat belts and discusses additional measures such as the establishment of performance requirements for enhanced roof strength, fire safety and emergency egress. It also calls for safety improvements using technologies such as electronic stability control to prevent rollovers.

We’ll keep on top of these issues and let you know as soon as something has been approved.  In the meantime, if you have specific questions on safety issues, please feel free to contact our firm.  There is a Contact Me link for my Website to the right of this Article and you can email your questions.

Jerry A. Casser – Fairfield, NJ Transportation Law Attorney – www.jcasser.com

 

 


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Beware of the Small Bus Repair Facility

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When your bus goes into a repair facilility for repair, has it ever occurred to you to check to see if the owner has insurance liability coverage?  Most bus operators would not worry about it, actually they would never think about it because they would probably go to a large repair facility.  But the small bus operator, and especially the minibus operators, would probably go to a small shop for repairs.

The small repair facility, with one or two bays, most likely rents from someone else, and works on a shoestring, so he might not have insurance.  This is crucial if the shop (garage) goes up in flames overnight with your bus inside.  If there is no insurance, who will pay for a new bus and compensate you for lost income?

I just finished a case in which my client’s bus went up in flames in a repair facility and there’s no insurance.  We obtained a Judgment against the owner of the repair facility for more than $50,000, but have little hope of collecting until he tries to set up business again.

Our firm specializes in property damage recovery and subrogation in NJ for buses, limo’s and other commercial vehicles.

Jerry A. Casser – Fairfield, NJ Transportation Law Attorney – www.jcasser.com


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Sen. Lautenberg – Hearings on Bus Safety

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A Transportation Subcommittee chaired by Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) held a Hearing to consider recommendations to improve bus safety.

The recommendations, which came after two serious bus accidents last month, include putting seat belts on buses, equipping buses with stronger roofs and windows, requiring onboard devices to monitor driver fatigue, and improving government oversight of bus companies.

Many feel that the accidents that occurred last month resulted from safety compromises and shortcuts within the bus industry.

Super Luxury Tours, the bus company involved in the NJ Turnpike crash that took place last month, has since had its interstate operating authority suspended by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pending completion of the investigation of the circumstances and cause of the accident.

Two days earlier, another bus traveling from Foxwoods Casino to NYC had a more serious accident in the Bronx, killing 15 passengers. Less well known was a bus crash on March 21 in New Hampshire which injured nearly 25 people who were travelling from Quebec to Boston.

Those who questioned the suggestions presented at the Hearing said that many of them are already in place. There were also questions about the potential cost of implementing the safety measures. Estimates coming out of the Hearing suggested that it would cost $13,000 to $15,000 to equip buses with seat belts, as well as another $75,000 per bus to meet the other safety recommendations.

Source: Jersey Journal, “U.S. Sen. Lautenberg heads hearing on recommendations to improve safety of tour buses,” Mike Frassinelli, 30 Mar 2011.

Update:  I checked with my experts in bus seating and the cost to retrofit a bus for seatbelts is about $30,000.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. – Fairfield, NJ Transportation Law Attorney –www.jcasser.com


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Schumer Needs a Transportation Law Attorney

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With all of the hubbub concerning the bus accident last week with the bus returning from the Connecticut casino to New York City, and much of it deserved, there are some glaring factual errors in Sen. Schumer’s presentation on all of the news outlets.

First, Schumer frequently misuses transportation terms because he does not know this area of the law and has no one to assist him, whether it is writing a speech, or crafting legislation to remedy the situation.

A tour bus describes a bus which operates charters and special operations, not on a regular basis and not between fixed termini.  The “Chinatown buses”, as they are called, provide regular route service on a fixed schedule between NYC and Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington and Boston, for the most part.  They are regular route operators.  The same may be said for the transportation service provided to the casino hotels, if it is regular enough in its operations.

Each bus, regardless of the nature of its operations, is issued interstate operating authority by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA)/US Department of Transportation (USDOT) and is inspected twice annually by the State Department of Transportation in the State in which the company is located.  Commercial Drivers’ Licenses are issued by the State Motor Vehicle Commission in the State in which the driver lives.  That State MVC sets the requirements for same.

It is fine to target certain types of buses, but if the truth be known, the City buses and the non-Asian buses would be found to have the same equipment defects which arise, not necessarily from faulty maintenance, but from excessive use.  In NJ, the State MVC/DOT targets the Hispanic minibuses, and ignores the State-owned NJ Transit.

In the past I have offered Transportation Law assistance to legislators, including, Sen. Menendez, who have chosen to do without my assistance.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Protecting the Intrastate Bus Route – Update

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Several years ago, Genesis Bus Lines, a small minibus operator from Paterson, attempted to circumvent NJ MVC Regulations by obtaining an operating Certificate from the FMCSA to provide interstate commuter bus service from Orange, NJ to New York City via Newark and Elizabeth. This is perfectly legal, if the buses do in fact go into NYC, but in this case we contended that they did not, turning around in Elizabeth and returning to Orange, a purely local route.

Coach USA operated the Orange-Elizabeth route for many years through its O.N.E. Bus subsidiary. In order to protect its route and revenues, O.N.E. Bus sought assistance from the NJ MVC and the Elizabeth Municipal Court, each of which has jurisdiction to enforce the NJ Statute that requires the intrastate bus operator to obtain operating authority from the NJ MVC.

Genesis, alleging harassment of its drivers, proceeded into Federal Court, while also using the newspapers and their attorney’s web blog to build a case. I filed a Complaint Petition with the NJ MVC which legally could not be removed to Federal Court, and obtained a Cease and Desist Order against Genesis. The matter was then transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a fact hearing to determine what in fact Genesis was doing – conducting a bona fide interstate route, or conducting an intrastate route under the guise of an interstate operation.

A Hearing was held. As plaintiff, we proceeded first and presented our witnesses and evidence, including a video tape of a Genesis minibus operating its daily route to Elizabeth and not beyond. Following this display, Genesis voluntarily agreed to a settlement specifically agreeing that any trips operating along this route would either begin or end in NYC. It goes without saying that the minibuses have not returned to the route.

A similar pattern has emerged in Hudson County where a number of minibus operators have set up shop along Kennedy Blvd. between Bayonne and Jersey City, running a loop during rush hours and then heading to NYC during the mid-day period.  Utilizing the Municipal Courts, these illegal intrastate operations were shut down, except for one which continues operating, although application has been made for a Cease and Desist Order.

QUICK UPDATE:  On March 3, 2011, the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission issued a Cease and Desist Order to Ride-Ex Transportation, LLC directing this minibus operator to cease all NJ intrastate bus operations without first obtaining a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity and threatening enforcement action in the form of fines and disqualification of future bus operations if the company and its owner fail to comply with the Order.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Atlantic City Bus Inspections

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Last August I commented on my presentation to the Governor’s Red Tape Review Panel on issues confronting the NJ Bus Industry.  One of the issues which I raised involved bus inspections conducted by the NJ MVC onsite at the casino’s which created a poor impression to the bus passengers who might believe that they were traveling on unsafe buses.  I received  further inquiries on this issue from the staffs of several Legislators who were interested in addressing this issue with new legislation.  There is now pending an amendment to existing legislation that would prohibit bus inspections on casino property and require all inspections to be done off-site.  I will provide an update once the legislation has been passed.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. – Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney -www.jcasser.com


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NJ Moving Ahead on Exempting Out of State Bus Operators from Corporate Business Tax

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For some time, NJ has not been customer friendly insofar as dealing with out of state bus operators coming into NJ to deliver casino patrons to Atlantic City.  NJ has been insisting on collecting their fair share of revenues under the NJ Business Corporation Tax, even though the business originates out of state.

NJ has gone as far as seizing out of state buses and holding them hostage until Returns are filed and taxes paid.  As a direct result of this activity, out of state operators have found more customer friendly destinations for their casino patrons.

Right now a NJ Senate Committee has approved a Bill which would exempt the out of state bus operators conducting business in NJ.  This has been viewed as a special case, to help out the faltering AC Casino business.   This is far from a done deal, since the full Senate still has to vote on the Bill and the Assembly Bill awaits a Committee Hearing, bit it’s progress.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. – Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney – www.jcasser.com


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Selling your bus company?

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The DAK Group has announced the successful completion of the strategic sale of Kevah Konner, Inc., a provider of school bus transportation services, to Student Transportation of America, Inc.  The DAK Group served as exclusive investment banker and financial advisor to Kevah Konner, Inc., based in Pine Brook, New Jersey. The second-generation family business was founded in 1935 and serves public and private school districts across northern New Jersey.  Student Transportation, Inc., based in Wall, New Jersey, is the third-largest provider of school bus services in North America. Kevah Konner, Inc. is one of the school bus companies that I represent in NJ and sought my assistance in identifying prospective purchasers for the company.  I assisted with the regulatory and compliance aspects of the sale.  If you have a school bus, coach or tour company, we have the resources to assist you with a purchase, sale or merger.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. –  Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney – www.jcasser.com


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First Aid Kits on Buses in NYC

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I was recently referred a matter from a Pennsylvania bus company which had been issued a ticket in NYC for not having a first aid kit installed in the bus.  While the kit would be helpful if someone were injured, the fact remains that the requirement for having a first aid kit in the bus is a NY Rule and cannot be enforced against interstate buses from other states.  This is part of the Federal Pre-Emption Rule whereby the State Rule cannot be applied against interstate carriers as it is an impediment too interstate commerce.  Well, at no small expense, we appeared for the client in NY Criminal Court and had the ticket dismissed.  The Judge may not have grasped the Rule that we argued, but did not not have the patience to debate it.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. – Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney – www.jcasser.com


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Red Tape Review Panel

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On March 23rd, I appeared before a NJ Red Tape Review Panel with other representatives of the Greater NJ Motorcoach Association to give testimony on issues confronting the NJ motorcoach industry and suggestions on ways that the State of NJ could assist the industry.  Some of the issues dealt with bus transportation to Atlantic City and coincidentally, the Governor is now seeking to orchestrate a State takeover of the casino district to eliminate overregulation and better promote the city as a destination and possibly assist the bus operators.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Subrogation Claims in New Jersey for Buses and Limousines

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How many bus and limousine companies in NJ have accident claims for their own damage and simply lose out on the opportunity to recover these damages?  The greatest deterrent is the fear of increased insurance premiums for the entire fleet.  The second greatest deterrent is the cost of legal services.

Our law firm specializes in property damage recovery for buses and limousines.  We do a thorough investigation when we are presented with the accident report.  We arrange for the damage appraisals.  We submit the claims to the responsible party’s insurance company, and if necessary, we file suit to recover.  Our success rate is in the high 90% range.  We charge our fees on a contingent basis, and we collect, which means protecting your premium rate and adding to your bottom line.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Changes Coming for Atlantic City

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During the past week the Press has reported on Gov. Christie’s proposals for revamping the Atlantic City Casino District which involves simplifying and consolidating multiple functions that affect the casino industry.  One of the byproducts of this may be its effect on the casino bus industry.

As the casino business has tumbled during the economic downturn, the bus companies that have brought thousands of people each day to AC have similarly suffered a downturn and have either reduced their service to Atlantic City, or redirected their business to the new Pennsylvania casinos, the Connecticut casinos, and Delaware and NY slot markets.

I recently testified before a Commission created by the Governor and chaired by the Lt. Governor presenting the issues which affect the NJ bus companies who deal with Atlantic City.  The bus industry needs a strong Atlantic City Casino market in order to generate passengers for their service, and I emphasized to the Commission the need to assist the bus companies with regard to tax issues, bus routing within AC, signage, offsite bus inspections, and generally to make Atlantic City more consumer and bus friendly.  The 

The casino’s benefit from the bus service and the bus companies benefit from an attractive destination to offer to their patrons.  It’s a Catch-22 situation, and maybe my comments did not fall on entirely deaf ears.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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FMCSA Vetting Process a Disaster

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I have written a series of posts on this issue and had thought that the FMCSA had worked the kinks out of the system.  Not so.  The people working in the Vetting Office appear to be in their first jobs and have no clue about bus operations.  The most common response that I get is to “wait for a letter”, or that “the Application has been approved subject to posting in the Register”, except the letter does not get sent and the posting does not occur.

I’m at a loss to explain to clients the reasons for the delays.  We have had several Applications dismissed for failure to respond to the unreceived letters and have had to pay $300 for reinstatement.

This is still a work in prgress.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Seatbelts for Interstate Buses

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The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) plans to propose rulemaking early next year to require seat belts on motorcoaches.

The DOT has released its Motorcoach Safety Action Plan, which lays out concrete steps for improving motorcoach safety issues such as driver fatigue and inattention, vehicle rollover, occupant ejections and oversight of unsafe carriers.

The comprehensive action plan proposes enhanced regulatory oversight of new and high risk motorcoach operators, as well as the increased use of new technologies. To address driver distraction, it proposes to initiate rulemaking to prohibit texting and limit the use of cell phones and other devices by motorcoach drivers.

It also discusses requiring electronic on-board recording devices on all motorcoaches to better monitor drivers’ duty hours to address fatigue, and enhanced oversight of unsafe carriers.

In addition, the action plan proposes to better protect motorcoach occupants by requiring the installation of seat belts and discusses additional measures such as the establishment of performance requirements for enhanced roof strength, fire safety and emergency egress. It also calls for safety improvements using technologies such as electronic stability control to prevent rollovers.

Update – As of April 25, 2011, this has not yet been approved.  I guess they are still awaiting comments.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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FMCSA New Entrant Safety Regs

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On Wednesday, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began enforcing its New Entrant Safety Assurance Process Rule, which requires newly registered bus companies to meet stricter safety requirements.

 

This final rule raises the compliance standards for passing new entrant safety audits and requires that new carriers correct safety deficiencies before being granted permanent registration.

 

Under the new requirements, a newly registered bus company will automatically fail its safety audit if violations of any one of 16 essential Federal Regulations are discovered. These Regulations cover controlled substances and alcohol testing, hours-of-service rules, driver qualifications, vehicle condition and carrier insurance responsibility.

 

Failure to pass a new entrant safety audit may result in revocation of a bus company’s registration, unless that company takes corrective action within a time period established by the FMCSA.  Additionally, if certain violations are discovered during roadside inspections, the new bus company may be subject to an expedited safety audit or a compliance review that can result in fines or an out-of-service order.

 

A number of my clients who are new bus companies are receiving letters from the FMCSA advising that they have not responded to audit inquiries.  I am advising every new bus company to be on the look out for the letters, or the telephone calls received, seeking to conduct the audit, and not to ignore them, if they wish to continue in business.

 

 Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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New York City Bus Stops

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Most cities, at least where I am located in New Jersey, establish bus stops for the State owned carrier, NJ Transit, and any private bus company can stop to pick up/discharge passengers.

In NYC, bus stops are issued by the NYC DOT Bus Stop Management, and a sign is placed at the location listing the bus companies that can pick up/discharge there.  The whole process is very political, so some companies get their stops and others do not.  Read into that whatever you wish.

My own experience, since bus company clients come to me to get them stops in NYC as part of my bus transportation practice, is that if I ask for 8 stops, I get 4; if I ask for 4, I get 2; if I ask for 2, I get 1.  Moreover, I can wait months, or even a couple of years to get approval.

Why get a bus stop?  To avoid heavy fines for illegal pick ups.  Anyway, the process is not an easy one, but at least I have the experience of dealing with the bureaucrats who approve the issuance of the stops.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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More on the FMCSA Vetting Procedure

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Straight from the FMCSA:

“To ensure that noncompliant carriers are not attempting to evade detection by creating new motor carriers, the Agency has implemented a vetting process for new passenger carrier operating authority applicants. This process compares available applicant information to existing carrier information. FMCSA’s algorithm identifies common characteristics such as names, addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, vehicles, drivers, and insurance policy information. If similarities are detected, FMCSA investigates further.

The application is vetted by FMCSA and with the appropriate State agency. If an affiliation with a carrier with an unsafe record is detected through this vetting process, the applicant is required to provide additional documentation. FMCSA will deny authority to any unsafe carrier attempting to reestablish itself as a new carrier. ”

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Update on FMCSA Vetting

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On a recent post I noted that the FMCSA had apparently streamlined the vetting process for new entrants in the bus industry, so that the actual waiting time for the issuance of a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity was down to 2 months from 6 months (compared to the 23 days prior to August 2008).

Well, a gentleman came into my office today.  He had filed his own Application in late January.  He filed online, as I do, and he had some difficulty answering the Non-Affiliated Questions.  This happens to be a problem with the online program/form.  Anyway, he received a call and was asked to complete a paper copy of the Question and fax it in.  He answered “No” for Affiliations with other FMCSA carriers.

This gentleman then received a call from an FMCSA representative who asked him if he had anything to do with another carrier.  He answered that he drove a bus for another company.  He then was asked to write this on a paper copy of the Question, which he did and faxed it in.

Net result.  It’s August.  His Application has been pending since January.  No end in sight.  He was an employee, not an owner, which is what the Question on the Application is trying to find out.  He was told that the Application was on so and so’s desk and would eventually be acted upon.  Poor guy.  I’ll try to help him out.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq.  (Fairfield, NJ  Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Bus Regulation: A Unique Legal Specialty

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Here is an article that I wrote a while back that will provide an interesting perspective on my specialty as a transportation attorney specializing in the bus industry, primarily in NJ and NY.

http://www.jcasser.com/published-articles.htm

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Greater NJ Motorcoach Association (GNJMA)

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June 3, 2009… The Greater NJ Motorcoach Association announced its Board of Directors and Officers for 2009-2010 at its Annual Meeting at the Showboat Casino in Atlantic City.  Serving as President is Thomas Dugan, Safety Bus, Pennsauken, NJ; Vice President is Mark R. Waterhouse, Classic Tours, Lakewood, NJ; Treasurer is Joseph P. Fernandez, CPA, West Islip, NY; Secretary is Scott E. Henry, Martz Lines, Wilkes-Barre, PA.  Other Board members are David Benedict, David Tours & Travel, Philadelphia, PA; Tim Stout, Stout’s Charter Service, Trenton, NJ; Joshua Bennett, Capitol Bus Co., Harrisburg, PA; Mitchell Sussman, Starr Tours, Trenton, NJ; Nate Karp, Greyhound Lines, New York, NY; Wayne Klein, Klein’s Bus Service, Inc., Douglasville, PA; James Murphy, Saddle River Tours, Wallington, NJ; and Thomas JeBran, Trans-Bridge Lines, Bethlehem, PA.  Executive Director is Andrea C. Malamut, Cherry Hill, NJ and Legal Counsel is Jerry A. Casser, Esq., Fairfield, NJ.  


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NTSB Chairman Emphasizes Bus Safety

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National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Chairman Mark V. Rosenker was the keynote speaker at the Annual Meeting of the Greater NJ Motorcoach Association (GNJMA) in Atlantic City on June 3rd. He urged New Jersey based motorcoach operators to take action when accidents occur and make safety improvements that will bring the industry closer to an accident free environment.

Chairman Rosenker focused on some of the most notable highway accidents in recent years and the safety recommendations that have resulted from the NTSB investigations.

Rosenker pointed out that tragedies like the collapse of the Boston “Big Dig” tunnel ceiling panel and the Minneapolis bridge not only attract huge amounts of media attention, but also shake Americans’ confidence in their nation’s roadways. “Our job at the NTSB is to restore the confidence of the traveling public after a major transportation disaster by conducting an unbiased, independent investigation to determine the cause of the accident and find solutions to prevent it from happening again.”

In his closing remarks, Rosenker called on the New Jersey motorcoach industry to “find a maintenance improvement, implement a new operational policy, provide better training, embrace a new technology, but take action and do something different.” Rosenker concluded by saying, “Therefore, my charge to you is, when accidents occur, which they inevitably will, take action, and do something to make your company a safer place for your passengers, your employees, your families, and your community.”

GNJMA is a regional organization of motorcoach operators for which I serve as General Counsel. We represent the interests of motorcoach operators in our Region and promote safe and cost efficient operations. For information on membership, please contact me.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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ICC/FMCSA/USDOT BUS Filings

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This post relates to bus filings with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration/USDOT (successor to the ICC).  Many hopeful bus operators do Google searches to find someone to do their filings for operating authority and what do they get?  A non-professional, operating out of his home office who knows nothing about bus operations, but knows how to buy key words from Google. What he also knows is how to charge a fee, complete a simple online Application for Authority, and then leave the hopeful operator with just the completed Application (also requires Agents for Service of Process, insurance, instructions for State inspections, instructions for filing under the UCR Program, etc.).

As an attorney and longtime bus transportation professional, I will guide you through the entire process, making sure that you have insurance before you file, designing the bus routes to fit your proposed operations, getting all of the authority that you really need at one time (regular route, contract and charter), selecting a Process Agent, assisting with the new vetting process, and assisting with the inspection process.

You can check out my website and see who I am, where I am located, my experience, and a list of some of my bus company clients.  Choose an attorney before you choose a fly by night that you pay by credit card and never hear from again.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation Attorney) www.jcasser.com


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NYS DOT Bus Filings

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If you are a NJ bus operator and conduct business in New York State, then you would be well advised to get a New York State Department of Transportation (NYS DOT) Permit allowing you to operate in NY.  While the Permit is required to operate NY intrastate bus service, and you may not have a present intent to originate service in NY State, be rest assured that at some point in time you will be given the opportunity to operate a NY Charter trip, or you might want to take a tour group around NYC, or do a pick up at a NY area airport.

Better to be safe than sorry and possibly incur a $5000 fine.  Get the NYS DOT Permit which we can easily handle for you.

Updated 10/8/09:

Just so that there is no misunderstanding, and I get this every day, there are different types of operating authorities issued by the NYS DOT.  One authority is for charter operations, those occasional trips where someone or some group hires your bus for the day, regular route, where you operate daily service over a fixed route or time schedule, and contract carrier, where you provide service to a company, or a specific group, to transport their employees or members between locations according to a Contract for a specific period of time, with a daily, weekly or monthly payment for your transportation services.  Each form of service has a separate application and fee associated with it.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield, NJ Transportation attorney) www.jcasser.com


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Bus Leases – Owner/Operators

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In New Jersey, we have a great many minibus or jitney van operators who operate a fleet of vehicles, some of which are owned by the company, and some of which are owned by independent owner operators.  The owner operators lease their buses to the company which maintains the operating certificates or bus routes, usually issued by the FMCSA, and the liability insurance. 

The owner operator pays a flat fee per day or week to operate, usually in the area of $135-$185/day.  The owner operator selects the route that he wishes to operate from among several authorized to the company, and sets his own hours, depending on how ambitious or hungry he is.  The owner operator keeps all passenger revenues, pays the tolls and parking fees, and his own fuel costs.

Here’s the catch. The State Regulatory Agency (in NJ, it is the NJ MVC, formerly the NJ DOT) has Regulations on what must be included in the Lease Agreement.  The Lease must have a fixed term, a beginning and an end, and it requires the owner operator to turn in his plates along with a Release from the company when he chooses to leave the company and this lease arrangement.  Some company operators are not as honest as you might think, and they draft Lease Agreements that do not allow the owner operator to terminate and voluntarily withdraw from the company.  This violates State law and may require the intervention of an attorney and the Courts, unless the State Agency chooses to monitor the arrangement as set forth in its own Regulations.

I am an attorney who has considerable experience in this area and can assist the owner operators who have become the unwitting pawns of the company owners.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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NYC – Out of State Bus Violations

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Whether it is a product of budget deficits, or simply a matter of limiting out of state bus traffic into New York City, the City Police and NYS DOT Inspectors are aggressively issuing Summonses for vehicle “violations” by buses.  Each violation carries with it a $1,000 fine and a required Court appearance in NYC Criminal Court.

Our law firm has been handling these violations for a number of Pennsylvania bus companies that regularly travel into NYC.  We know the City Regulations, especially how to comply with and establish to the Court’s satisfaction that repairs have been completed (within 24 hrs. of the violation), and as a result, we can get the Summonses dismissed with no fine, no Court costs, and most importantly, no required Court appearance except for a member of our firm.

If your driver receives a Summons for oeprating his bus with leaking oil, a defective taillight, brakes out of alignment, etc., please do your repair immediately, document it and contact our firm for representation.  You will be doing yourself a favor, and save some significant money at the same time.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Subrogation/Property Damage Claims

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In today’s economic environment, a bus or limousine company’s ability to recover the cost of repair for damage to its vehicles is more important than ever.  Insurance companies are not voluntarily making payments and they have to be pushed very hard to do so. When your claim is being handled by an attorney, they realize that you mean business, and the insurance companies’ costs will rise if the matter goes into litigation.  Therefore, they will take the claim more seriously.

Our law firm specializes in first party property damage claims for buses (coaches, school buses, minibuses, vans) and for limousines (sedans and stretches).  We are known in the bus industry as subrogation attorneys.  We work on a contingent fee basis, so no recovery, no fee.  However, please understand that we do not take cases where it is clear that your driver is at fault.  As a consequence, we recover for the damage in virtually all cases, and frequently recover for loss of use of the vehicle.

The recoveries that we may obtain on your behalf go straight to your bottom line – very important today.  So, if you need a subrogation attorney to recover for your company’s damages arising from motor vehicle accidents in NJ and NY, contact us through the website address noted below.  A majority of our cases are in Essex, Passaic, Bergen, Hudson, Union and Morris Counties, but we are not limited geographically in NJ unless the case arises in South Jersey and involves too small a sum of money to justify litigating, i.e. $2,500.00 or less.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Municipal Regulation of Transportation

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Municipalities from time to time try to exert control over transportation operations conducted within or through their boundaries.  Unfortunately, they can only regulate taxi’s and limousines.  Buses are regulated by State and Federal agencies who issue approval for bus routes or charter operations.  Municipalities can regulate the location of bus stops only, and can regulate traffic over city streets, if reasonably required for safety, i.e. through residential areas.

States can regulate safety, through roadside and semi-annual inspections, and insurance, although Federal insurance requirements are substantially higher than State mandated limits.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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When to Apply for FMCSA Certificate

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Timing is the most important part of applying for your first FMCSA Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity. The Application process is quick, especially if you file online, since you get an MC Number and a USDOT Number immediately. However, you are then required to file your proof of insurance within 20 days. If not, a Decision is issued granting you an additional 60 days within which to comply or have your Application dismissed. As stated in the preceding article on the new “vetting” procedure, this may take 4-6 weeks to gain approval. All the while you are paying for insurance and the financing on the new bus, but unable to operate same. Here is what I suggest. About 60 days prior to the date upon which you wish to operate, file the Application with the FMCSA and USDOT, arrange for the bus to be held for you for 60 days, arrange for insurance to be filed 40 days after your Application is submitted, and hopefully, everything will coincide at the 60 day mark, i.e. your Certificate is received, and the bus is ready to be picked up for inspection by your State DOT.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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FMCSA Vetting Procedures

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Applicants for operating authority from the FMCSA are now finding that the application process can no longer be completed in 24 days, but may take 2 months or more. Since August 2008, the FMCSA has determined that new entrants have to be vetted to determine whether they are legitimately new carriers, or formerly approved carriers who have simply gone out of business and changed their names, only to apply for new authority. The FMCSA will examine new applicants to determine who the principals are and whether there are any affiliations with disqualified or unsafe operators. Once satisfied, the Certificate will be issued. However, a number of applicants have been denied authority. Bottom line for new applicants – be prepared to wait awhile for approval.

Follow up on 5/14/09:

The FMCSA had estimated to me that the additional time needed to investigate the applicant would be 6-8 weeks.  It has actually been 7 weeks, meaning that the total amount of time needed to obtain the Certificate is 10 weeks.  Be forewarned.  You must have your insurance in effect to avoid dismissal.  Therefore, only put one bus on the policy until approval is granted in order to minimize the insurance cost. Then add the additional buses to the policy.

Follow up on 6/16/09:

The FMCSA seems to be finally getting their act together.  Based on this week’s mail, it appears that my latest Application will make it through in exactly 2 months.  All in all, this is not terrible, as long as you can depend on this being done in a consistent pattern. My worst case is 5 1/2 months amid numerous requests for additional information.

 

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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Pending – Discontinuance of Commuter Service

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The NJ State Legislature has proposed legislation that will require any bus company providing commuter bus service to provide all communities served with 45 days notice of the “intention” to file a Petition with the NJMVC to discontinue service. Present Regulations simply require the communities to be served with a copy of the “filed” Petition, giving 30 days notice of the request to discontinue service. Basically, the proposed legislation gives each community a minimum of 75 days notice, with a better opportunity to mobilize opposition, or possibly to negotiate a reduced level of service with the bus company. While the added notice period may be considered a hindrance to a proposed discontinuance, in actuality the NJMVC is not particularly receptive to any discontinuance of commuter service and does not usually act on the Petitions within the standard 30 day period. [Note: This Article was recently published by me in the GNJMA NEWSGRAM]

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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NJ MVC Annual Reports

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It seems as if many NJ Bus Companies, possibly the newer ones, have either forgotten about or are unaware of the requirement of filing an Annual Report with the NJ MVC. The Annual Reports are due no later than March 31st covering the preceding calendar year. It had been by experience that the forms were mailed to the bus carriers during January, leaving sufficient time to complete and file same. However, during the past week, the MVC has mailed a number of the forms to me as attorney for the newer companies advising that the deadline had been missed and establishing a new deadline of August 1st.

There are serious penalties for non-compliance, i.e. revocation of operating authority in addition to a daily penalty for the late filing. No one can afford to lose their operating authority, so it behooves each and every bus company to do the requisite filing. In most cases, the filing will be done by the accountant or controller for the company, as the key information is financial (income statement and balance sheet). Fees are based upon revenues for the year. If anyone has a particular question about preparation or filing, please direct it to me at jerry@jcasser.com and I will try to help.

Jerry A. Casser, Esq. (Fairfield NJ Transportation attorney)  www.jcasser.com


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