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Federal officials keep Fung Wah off the road

Fung Wah provided service between Boston and New York.

David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File

Fung Wah provided service between Boston and New York.

Federal regulators have denied Fung Wah’s request to resume operations nearly a year after the Boston bus company was shut down for significant safety violations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates interstate bus travel, provided few details of why it rejected the application from Fung Wah Bus Transportation Inc., simply saying, “The company is not willing or able to comply with the safety standards we require to protect passengers, drivers, and the motoring public.”

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A lawyer representing Fung Wah said the carrier is appealing the decision.

“Fung Wah is ready, willing, and able to get back on the road, and we’re confident that we’ll prevail in our appeal,” said Alexander Linzer of the New York firm Freeman Lewis LLC.

Federal regulators ordered Fung Wah to cease operations over safety concerns in 2013.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Federal regulators ordered Fung Wah to cease operations over safety concerns in 2013.

The Jan. 24 order rejecting Fung Wah’s request does not list specific failings in the company’s application, other than to note that the carrier applied to resume operations multiple times, “in an apparent attempt to avoid FMCSA’s passenger carrier vetting process.”

Carriers that are shut down must reapply for authority to operate and are subject to more scrutiny than a new company trying to launch interstate bus service.

After federal regulators inspected Fung Wah’s fleet and reviewed its records, the carrier was allowed to submit an application by mail, as required by the stricter guidelines, on July 31.

But then Fung Wah applied three more times online — on Oct. 11, Nov. 5, and Dec. 5 — a less rigorous process for first-time carriers seeking a new Department of Transportation number to operate, or for companies whose insurance has lapsed.

It was unclear whether Fung Wah was trying to disguise its identity or if the carrier did not understand the procedures.

Linzer, Fung Wah’s lawyer, would not clarify why the company applied multiple times, and a safety consultant hired by Fung Wah last spring did not respond to requests for comment.

In the past, it was possible for a company ordered off the road to get back in business by changing its name and applying for a new operating number.

But new regulations put in place recently as part of an overall crackdown on bus safety have made it more difficult for these “chameleon carriers” to start operating again.

Fung Wah’s operating history was taken into account during its application for reauthorization, regulators said.

The carrier, which pioneered cheap fares between Boston and New York’s Chinatown, was ordered off the road on March 1 after a Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities inspection revealed substantial cracks in a number of the carrier’s buses and the company refused to turn over its safety records.

The federal motor carrier agency subsequently found other serious safety issues, including falsified inspection records, improper supervision of drivers, and inadequate drug and alcohol testing, conditions that “substantially increase the likelihood of serious injury or death to Fung Wah drivers, passengers, and the traveling public,” the agency said.

Fung Wah competitor Lucky Star, a Boston company that also runs to New York’s Chinatown, lost its license in June for not properly maintaining its buses and for failing to monitor drivers’ hours and drug and alcohol tests.

After spending almost $1 million upgrading operations — including buying new buses, retraining drivers, and hiring a safety consultant — Lucky Star resumed service in November.

Katie Johnston can be reached at kjohnston@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ktkjohnston.
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