Crystal Transport Inc., shut down at the end of March after investigators discovered that drivers who failed drug tests continued to transport passengers, is back on the road in Massachusetts after proving to regulators it has corrected that problem and several other safety violations.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which oversees interstate motorcoach carriers, reauthorized Crystal to start running trips within the state on Monday.
Crystal has not yet regained its main route, transporting several thousand students, staff, and tourists a day between the JFK/UMass MBTA station, the University of Massachusetts Boston campus, and the John F. Kennedy Library.
The carrier has reapplied for authority to operate over state lines and is awaiting federal approval.
Crystal was ordered off the road after federal regulators completed a review of the company in February — the first full safety evaluation done in five years.The investigation revealed drivers who falsified records of their hours, tested positive for drugs but were allowed back on the road, or weren’t screened for drugs and alcohol before they were hired.
Crystal’s general manager, Kevin Sheehan, said most of the 30-year-old carrier’s problems were administrative, stemming from shoddy attention to detail and poor internal communications: not having documentation on file, not using approved substance abuse programs, and not filling out logs correctly.
The company has since revamped its record keeping, hired a new drug-testing company, and retrained employees, Sheehan said.
Several workers were disciplined or let go.
Crystal has also hired two consultants to ensure it complies with federal regulations and plans to start using electronic driver logs to ensure that it has more accurate records of duty.
The 80-employee company said it has lost about half of its staff since the shutdown.
While it was prohibited from operating buses, Crystal continued to provide services for several regular customers, including high schools and universities, by contracting with other bus companies to run buses on its regular routes, the company said.
“We are thankful to all our loyal customers who have stuck by us,” Linda Carroll, president of Crystal, said in a statement. “We have new company policies and procedures that will enable us to meet all federal and state transportation requirements.”
Crystal has resumed operating in-state charter trips but won’t have a chance to win back its biggest client, the University of Massachusetts Boston, until the end of June. That’s when the contract is up for the two companies that replaced Crystal when it was abruptly shuttered in March. Crystal had served UMass Boston for 25 years
“We are pleased with our current shuttle bus providers,” UMass Boston spokesman DeWayne Lehman said in an e-mail. “We will be bidding all bus service in the future, a process that includes a thorough review of all bidders.”
Crystal is the third Boston bus company to be pulled off the road in the past year by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which has recently stepped up its oversight of interstate carriers. The agency shut down the Boston-New York Chinatown carriers Fung Wah and Lucky Star last year; Lucky Star was later reinstated.
The safety administration said it reinspected all of Crystal’s buses and ensured that corrective actions have been taken.
Before the carrier is allowed to operate outside of Massachusetts, it has to go through a reapplication process that allows the public to file a protest against letting the company back on the road.
Going forward, the federal agency said, Crystal will be subject to more frequent reporting requirements and inspections.