State officials have opened an investigation into the company that owned the bus that rolled over Saturday with Morehouse College band students on board.
The Georgia Public Service Commission late Monday began a formal investigation into Superior Transportation Group, PSC spokesman Bill Edge said. The PSC in February had issued a “cease and desist” order against the company, saying it was not properly licensed.
“If you are presently conducting operations you are doing so illegally,” stated the letter, written by a member of the PSC’s transportation unit. The PSC issues permits to buses, passenger vans and limousines in Georgia.
One of three buses carrying 42 students overturned on I-75 southbound en route to a football game in Albany.
The bus company, Superior Transportation Group, is one of a dozen bus carriers the PSC lists as being unauthorized to operate within the state.
The PSC listed a 2008 complaint against the company and said Superior was among the list of 12 charter companies the commission believes are operating in Georgia “without the lawful authority necessary to legally conduct intrastate transportation of passengers and their luggage.”
To get an operating permit from the PSC, buses and other carriers have to provide proof of insurance and submit a background check and a safety inspection, as well as pay a $50 fee, Edge at the PSC said. The safety inspection is done by public safety officers and not by the PSC, he said.
Police are allowed to stop buses and other carriers to ask for their PSC certification. If the driver can’t show it, the police can impound the vehicle, Edge said.
The PSC issued the “cease and desist” order to Superior after a woman representing a school wanted to hire the company but could not find it listed on the PSC’s Web site. The PSC said Superior didn’t have a permit, Edge said.
“That’s how we found out they were operating illegally,” he said.
While law enforcement officials have the authority to impound buses and other carriers that don’t have permits from the PSC, state regulators don’t have the legal authority to shut down a company after a “cease and desist” order is issued, Edge said.
The agency posts a list of illegal carriers on its Web site and sends the information to law enforcement, he said.
“There’s not a whole lot we can do beyond taking administrative action,” Edge said. “We told him, ‘Stop operating, you’re in violation of the law.’”
The PSC’s investigation will include gathering evidence and a hearing.
Morehouse officials on Monday said the school never contracted with the company to transport the band.
“Morehouse College hired Adventure Bus Charter and Tours Inc., based in Sumiton, Ala.,” spokeswoman Toni O’Neal Mosley said in a statement released Monday. “We are conducting an internal investigation to determine how Superior Transportation Group Inc. in Atlanta was involved.”
Mosley said the school’s internal investigation is looking into just what company or organization was operating the bus during the accident.
The bus went off the road in Henry County around 10 a.m., just south of I-675, authorities said. About a dozen students were injured, and one remained hospitalized Monday night at Grady Memorial Hospital, school officials said.