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Cracked Buses, Broken Business

Neglecting even basic crisis management, Fung Wah buses are no more

When Massachusetts inspectors found cracks in Fung Wah bus frames, we knew the discount carrier line had a crisis on its hands. What we didn’t expect was just how fast things would go from seemingly repairable to completely out of control.

In fact, the state inspectors were so dismayed at their findings, which included loose nuts and bolts on engines, major oil leaks, cracked frames with amateur welding holding them together, or in some cases, no welding at all, that they requested the federal government deem Fung Wah an “imminent hazard” and order all of its buses to stay off the road pending further investigation.

Instead of cooperating fully with the feds and apologizing like its continued existence as a business depended on it (which it did), Fung Wah decided to block access to company safety records.

As a result, in its first use of new powers, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration pulled Fung Wah’s operating license and made several statements regarding its commitment to keeping commercial travel safe, including the following:

“We will not hesitate to immediately shut down a bus or truck company that ignores safety regulations and puts innocent lives at risk,” said FMCSA Administrator Anne Ferro. “We will employ every tool we have to take unsafe commercial drivers, vehicles and entire companies off the road anywhere in the county at any time.”

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Watchdog groups are doing a better job than ever of locating and exposing organizations that place us in danger. While it may be tempting to eliminate costly safety practices to pad your bottom line, remember that the financial fallout when you’re caught will far exceed the gains you made. Of course, there’s also the little fact that you just so happen to be placing fellow humans at risk of injury or death.

Could Fung Wah have weathered this situation if it had taken the proper crisis management approach of cooperating with investigators and dropped the cash necessary to bring its buses up to standards? We think so.

Is it likely to make a comeback after taking a public thrashing and having it’s license revoked? You do the math.

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