Cheap Fares, Dangerous Bus Routes

The discount bus carrier industry is under national scrutiny after a bus from Sky Express-a discount bus service-crashed off I-95 near Richmond, Virginia. Fifty-three people were injured and four women were killed in the crash.

The U.S. Department of Transportation shut down the bus service after the wreck, but Sky Express attempted to circumvent the closure by renaming the company 108 Tours and painting its buses a different color. "Reincarnating," as the process is known, is a common-if illegal-practice in a business that regulators already have trouble monitoring.

Because their bus tickets are cheap, Sky Express and other similar bus services are popular. But if the increase in the number of bus crashes and safety citations is any indication, the savings may not be worth the expense of sacrificing safety-something the bus companies may be doing to increase profits.

Drivers for Sky Express have received numerous citations for safety violations, including speeding and fatigue. The owners of Sky Express even blame its driver for the Virginia crash, while the official call was driver fatigue.

Just last month, federal bus safety regulators were going to shut down Sky Express for good, but gave the company time to appeal. After the most recent wreck, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated that he wants bus companies with excessive violations to be closed down and not given extensions.

Federal authorities are not having an easy time shutting down Sky Express, however. The company was running an operation not only as 108 Tours and 108 Bus, but 108 Bus also shares an office, phone number, and email with a company called I-95 Coach, which provides the same bus service between Charlotte and New York as Sky Express.

Authorities are now subpoenaing records of several bus service websites, all of which are run by the same company, and all of which sell tickets for many of the cheaper bus companies, including Sky Express.