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UTC staff announce $198,000 settlement with First Student

Docket Number: TE-210904 and TE-190152 (consolidated) 

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 UTC staff regarding this proceeding should be attributed clearly to staff members and NOT to the UTC. 

Company admits violations, agrees to penalty and compliance reporting

LACEY, Wash. - Today staff of the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission announced a full multiparty settlement with First Student, Inc. resolving a complaint it filed against the charter transportation company in February for safety violations. 

Under the settlement agreement, First Student admits to the 396 safety violations identified by UTC staff and agrees to a penalty of $188,000 with $68,000 due immediately. The UTC will suspend the remaining $120,000 for three years and waive the suspended portion of the penalty if First Student does not commit any repeat critical or acute violations during that time. 

In the agreement, First Student also agrees to pay a previously suspended $10,000 penalty due to repeat violations. 

Additionally, First Student agrees to provide quarterly reporting to the UTC for 18 months on how the company is following its corrective action plan to address the violations. 

The three-member commission is not bound by staff’s agreement. An administrative law judge will review the settlement agreement. 

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

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. 

First Student paid $13,700 of the penalty and provided an acceptable corrective action plan, resulting in an upgrade to a ‘Satisfactory’ safety rating. The UTC suspended the remaining $10,000 penalty, subject to several conditions. 

In January 2022, UTC staff completed a follow-up investigation of First Student and identified 396 safety violations, including critical, acute, out-of-service, and repeat violations, and filed a complaint recommending up to $396,000 in penalties. 

At that time, the UTC again issued a proposed ‘Conditional’ safety rating to the company, which was later upgraded to ‘Satisfactory’ after First Student submitted an acceptable corrective action plan addressing the violations. 

Parties to the settlement agreement are UTC staff and First Student, Inc. 

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. 

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Editor’s Note: All documents related to this proceeding are available in Dockets TE-210904 and TE-190152 (consolidated) on the UTC’s website: www.utc.wa.gov 

Topic(s)
Auto Transportation and Buses
Consumer
General
Transportation
Transportation Safety