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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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Protecting the Intrastate Bus Route

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Approximately two 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 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 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.

The Hearing was held in February. 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 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.

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


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Intrastate Bus Service on Interstate Certificate

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When can a bus operator legally provide local or intrastate service under an Interstate Certificate?

The answer seems relatively simple when one reads some of the Federal Decisions as well as the language contained on the Federal Certificate issued by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. If the bus company provides substantial interstate service on its interstate route, it may provide local or intrastate service on that route. That part is clear. What is not so clear is whether the company may provide interstate service in some of its vehicles and wholly intrastate service in some of its vehicles.

It is clear that buses traveling on an interstate route can pick up and drop off local or intrastate passengers along the route that crosses state lines. Additionally, the former ICC had ruled in a published Decision that intrastate service need not be provided in the same vehicles which would seem to answer the previous question.

However, this is where the “substantial” interstate service comes into play. The ICC had ruled in one of my cases (actually the last Decision issued by the ICC before it was legislated out of existence) that two of my bus company clients could provide separate interstate and intrastate service (separate vehicles or trips) based on the fact situations presented (in one case, the bus company had 90% of its trips interstate, and in the other about 80%). The ICC did not set a percentage test in its findings and I have generally advised my clients that 70% was the minimum level of interstate service that has to be provided in order to provide local service in separate vehicles.

I will point out, however, that the current position of the NJ MVC is not in agreement with either my position or the ICC Decisions. The MVC has been issuing Summonses to some of my clients where they perceive that a single trip was conducted intrastate, even though 480 trips were interstate on the same date. I have successfully defended these matters in Municipal Court, although the decisions rendered by the Judges in each case were on evidentiary grounds for dismissing the MVC Inspectors’ testimony.

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


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