SACRAMENTO, CA — The California State Assembly has passed two pieces of legislation — Assembly Bills 636 and 951— aimed at strengthening the penalties against charter-party carriers and drivers who choose to ignore or violate safety and licensing laws. Charter-party carriers include tour buses and other types of passenger charter transportation such as limousines. They do not include city buses, school buses, taxis, rental cars, or other vehicles that run on set schedules.
Assembly Bill 636 empowers the state to pull the license of any charter bus driver who operates a bus without the appropriate driver's license, endorsement, or certificate. The law also strips these drivers of the right to ever receive a license to operate any type of bus again in the state, including city buses and school buses. Additionally, the bill revokes the charter of any bus company that either operates a bus without the proper permit or knowingly hires a bus driver who does not have the necessary license, endorsement or certificate to operate a charter bus. Finally, the bill gives the California Highway Patrol the authority to impound any bus if it does not have the proper permit or the driver does not have the appropriate license, endorsement or certificate to drive the vehicle.
Assembly Bill 951 seeks to increase the penalties against bus companies who
knowingly violate California law. Assemblyman Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said the
penalties under current state law are too low to serve as a useful deterrent to
charter bus companies who might find the risk of paying the minimal fines
acceptable when compared to the profits they are making. If the bill is signed, the following penalties will be increased:
•$7,500 civil penalty (from $5,000);
•$1,000 reinstatement fee (from $125);
•$1,500-$7,000 penalty for operating with a suspended certificate or permit for each day in violation (from $1,000-$5,000);
•$1,000-$5,000 fine for any bus company that violates or fails to comply with the law (from a $1,000 maximum fine);
•$2,000 maximum fine for anyone besides the bus company who violates charter-party carrier laws or regulations (from $1,000);
•$10,000 fine for operating a bus without a certificate or permit for first time offenders;
•$25,000 fine for subsequent offenders (now $1,500 for first time and $2,500 for second time offenders)
Source: American Bus Association