Posted: Mar 25, 2013 8:13 PM by MTN News
Hundreds of passengers were stranded around Montana due to the federally-ordered shut-down of the Rimrock Stages bus company, based in Billings.
On Saturday the U.S. Department of Transportation ordered the shut-down, calling the company an "imminent hazard" to public safety.
The order says that all 15 vehicles in Rimrock Stages fleet must remain parked and in no way operated.
In an 11-page report, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration claims Rimrock Stages fails to ensure that its vehicles are properly maintained.
The FMCSA inspected eight vehicles and discovered 79 violations of federal safety requirements. All eight of those vehicles inspected were ordered out of service.
Rimrock Stages has not yet commented about the shutdown order, but did immediately comply.
Due to the shut-down, one man in Missoula says he's been rerouted an extra 600 miles, an Idaho mother drove three hours to pick up her daughter, and almost everyone at the Missoula bus depot has been delayed more than 24 hours.
Coming from New Mexico, Lisa Reich paid $250 for her ticket; she said, "That's a lot of money for a round-trip ticket, for a one-way ticket, to be stranded for hours and nobody really knows what's going on. That's not right."
Many people say they experienced mechanical issues during their ride from North Dakota into eastern Montana before being delayed in Billings.
Ryan Lybarger said, "Then we found out that D.O.T. shut 'em down, but they didn't tell us anything about it. They just kept us guessing and waiting."
Lybarger says he spent Friday night sleeping on the floor in the Billing Bus Depot. In addition to the discomfort, he says the delays have cost him financially: "I've lost almost two days' worth of work. I'm sick and tired of messing with this."
For some, the delays have cost even more; Spencer Ebert said, "My grandfather passed away and I was going home for the funeral. I was supposed to be a pallbearer and I wasn't able to make it."
It's unclear if any of the stranded passengers will receive compensation for their troubles.
Reich said, "There's nothing you can really do about it. You just deal with it. It's all you can do and hope we get to our destination."
A ticket clerk with Rimrock Stages said that the company is trying to make charter accommodations for all of its passengers.