Bus Transportation Law Firm

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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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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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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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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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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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