UniteGPS – First Student, the largest school bus charter company in the United States, currently faces over 600 alleged safety violations in Washington following a new report by the Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC).
As a routine follow-up from a 2019 investigation, the UTC recently released a 10-page testimony outlining “new and repeated safety violations” between January 2020 to April 2021 from the charter bus company. Facing hefty fines, First Student could be forced to pay up to $364,000 if found guilty during next month’s hearing.
Some of the 634 accusations within this statewide investigative report include First Student not screening drivers for drugs and alcohol, clearing drivers before their applications were entirely complete, overlooking driving records during the hiring process, providing falsified information on driving records, among others. From the list, officials categorized 396 of the violations as acute, critical, or repeated.
This isn’t the first time the Ohio-based company has been in hot water in Washington. Back in 2019, the UTC fined First Student $23,700 for similar charges while agreeing to forgive up to $10,000 in exchange for two years without further incidents. Safe to say that this heavier sentencing is a heavy response to the original agreement.
First Student bus company lawsuit in Washington
Resulting from the follow-up, the UTC downgraded First Student’s safety rating from “satisfactory” to “conditional” while pursuing the highest legal penalty amount. The drooping safety rating could ultimately prevent the charter bus company from expanding more throughout Washington, especially in Seattle where it’s vying for a three-year contract with the district, currently worth $40 million a year.
While this document covers every Washington school district where First Student operates, keep in mind that the UTC only oversees First Student’s charter bus services in most of Washington. meaning field trips, athletics, and extracurricular events. One of the exceptions is Seattle where the UTC deploys the same vehicles and drivers.