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UTC files complaint against charter bus company First Student, Inc. for repeated safety violations

Docket Numbers: TE-210904 and TE-190152

Update: Since the time of this news release, staff indicated they reached a settlement with the company, and the commission suspended the procedural schedule. Parties have until April 12 to submit the settlement statement. The company's proposed conditional safety rating was upgraded to satisfactory.

Editor's Note: This news release reflects the position of staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) and NOT the views of the three-member commission. It discusses enforcement actions and penalties that the commissioners have not yet reviewed. Any positions taken or comments offered by commission staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC.

UTC staff recommend up to $396,000 in penalties

LACEY, Wash. - Today state regulators filed a formal complaint against First Student, Inc., after UTC staff identified new and repeated safety violations by the charter bus company during a routine follow-up to a 2019 staff investigation and penalty assessment.

The UTC previously issued a $23,700 penalty against First Student, suspending $10,000 of the penalty if the company met certain conditions and avoided committing additional violations for two years. However, UTC staff followed up and found that First Student didn’t meet these conditions.

Of the 634 violations of vehicle and driver safety requirements by First Student from January 2020 to April 2021 identified by UTC staff, 396 were acute, critical, or repeated.

Based on staff’s amended investigation, UTC staff are requesting that the commission impose the previously suspended $10,000 penalty and consider assessing up to the maximum allowable penalty amount for those 396 violations.

State law authorizes the Utilities and Transportation Commission to impose a penalty of up to $1,000 for each violation.

The UTC regulates only the charter services provided by the company, the commission does not regulate school-to-home or home-to-school transportation. 

Commission process

The UTC will hold a virtual brief adjudicative proceeding at 9:30 a.m. on March 22, where an administrative law judge will decide whether to impose new or previously suspended penalties based on staff findings and consider any other enforcement actions.

Anyone interested in attending can join:

  • online,
  • by telephone at 253-215-8782, using Meeting ID: 929 2209 0324 and Passcode 782234#.

 

BACKGROUND

In March 2019, the UTC issued a $23,700 penalty assessment against First Student for violations of vehicle and driver safety requirements and issued a proposed ‘Conditional’ safety rating that the UTC later upgraded to ‘Satisfactory.’

First Student paid $13,700 of the penalty and agreed to a safety management plan to suspend the other $10,000, pending compliance in a follow-up investigation.

Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student, Inc. is a regulated charter and excursion bus company providing charter transportation services in Chattaroy, Colville, Rochester, Seattle, Tacoma, Tenino, and Vashon Island, Washington. In addition to UTC-regulated services, First Student contracts with school districts to provide school bus and charter services related to student transportation.

The UTC regulates the rates and services of household goods movers; passenger transportation companies; investor-owned electric, natural gas, garbage, and water utilities; landline telecommunications companies; garbage haulers; commercial ferries; pipeline companies; marine pilotage; and a low-level radioactive waste repository. 

Topic(s)
Charter and Excursion Buses
General
Transportation