Federal agency shuts down Champaign bus company

Federal agency shuts down Champaign bus company

CHAMPAIGN — Federal officials ordered a Champaign-based bus company to shut down its operations on Friday.

The U.S. Department of Transportation's Motor Carrier Safety Administration announced it had issued an order requiring LEX Express Inc. to shut down.

According to a release from the agency, the bus company received an unsatisfactory safety rating on Oct. 22 after a compliance review found several violations of federal safety regulations, including:

— False reporting of records of duty status.

— Using commercial motor vehicles that were not periodically inspected.

— Failing to properly maintain vehicle parts and accessories.

The bus company had asked for an administrative review of the violations and had sent paperwork explaining the violations.

The Motor Carrier Safety Administration says it is reviewing the paperwork, but did stick to its original deadline of Friday as a shutdown date.

LEX's owner, Robert Frazier, says he's saddened by the news and that his staff of 100 employees will now be out of work.

Frazier continued to refer to the violations as unjust. He said LEX has a paperwork problem, not a safety problem.

Frazier says he doesn't plan to take any legal action at this time and will wait until the Motor Carrier Safety Administration gets back to him on the review of the violations.

The agency said LEX Express submitted a 600-page proposed safety management plan on Nov. 30. The agency is still reviewing that material, and has up to 30 days to review the plan before the bus company's safety rating may be upgraded.

The bus company's website, lincolnlandexpress.com, said, "On Monday (or Tuesday) we'll know if this is a temporary or permanent. If permanent, unfulfilled paid reservations will be fully refunded."

"Safety is our number one priority," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in the written release from the federal agency. "We are using every resource at our disposal to identify and remove unsafe bus companies from our roads."

Comments

News-Gazette.com embraces discussion of both community and world issues. We welcome you to contribute your ideas, opinions and comments, but we ask that you avoid personal attacks, vulgarity and hate speech. We reserve the right to remove any comment at our discretion, and we will block repeat offenders' accounts. To post comments, you must first be a registered user, and your username will appear with any comment you post. Happy posting.

Login or register to post comments

Mark Taylor wrote on December 07, 2012 at 5:12 pm

This is just another example of Maobama and his fellow communistics and his COLLEGE BUS CZAR interfering with American capitalism and preventing a REAL AMERICAN from exercising their LIBERTY to minimize the costs of running their business.

Vote Tea Party Republican -- we'll get rid of these communistical "safety inspections."

spangwurfelt wrote on December 07, 2012 at 7:12 pm

As the Merry Pranksters used to put it, you're either on the bus czar or you're off the bus czar.

JRG73 wrote on December 08, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I don't think you understand the meaning of the words you're using ... particularly the word communism.

 

  • This is a passenger transport company that operated in a manner that jeopardized not only their customers and their employees ... but other people on the road. 

  

  • How would I know? Because I drove for Bob Frazier for over a year and was terminated because  I continuously refused to operate unsafe vehicles. I drove the midnight CU-O'Hare route 6 days a week. There wasn't a week that went by that I wouldn't refuse more than 5 vehicles because of any number of safety reasons from blown bulbs to inoperable seat belts. I would terminate routes because the vehicles would begin to shutter at highway speeds. I would return to base just as I began my trip because brakes weren't working safely.

  

  • We had a pair of Chrysler mini-vans that were meant to be used when we had 3 or fewer passengers, yet Bob would throw fits when no one would drive them at night because the headlights were so dim. It is common place to drive up or down on I57, the tri-state, the Kennedy, and O'Hare and see a broken down LEX vehicle. I can't tell you how many times I broke down in Chicago because the vehicles were poorly maintained and made to feel like it was my fault. I can tell you that I almost lost my life twice because Bob Frazier wanted to save a few bucks and bought underweight retread tires that weren't even certified for the vehicles he used them on. Twice, with these tires, I had blow outs at highway speeds and both times very nearly took out other vehicles on the interstate as I attempted to bring the vehicle under control.

 

  • I also can't tell you how many times I was written up or yelled at because I refused additional customers because I didn't have room. How many times Bob or a dispatcher ordered me to take more passengers and let them sit on the floor because there were no more seats. Or how many times they ordered me to take on more customers because I wasn't full ... but still had no room because of luggage.

  

  • This isn't about capitalism or Obama. Obama didn't make any new laws or even order his non existent "bus czar" to investigate LEX ... Bob did that to himself. Bob is a guy that likes to put on the air of a good and upstanding guy, but the truth is Bob writes bad checks on a weekly basis. Yes that's right ... anyone that has worked for Bob Frazier knows that you get to the hub before 5 on Friday and leave your car running. Why? Because if you're near the last person to get your check .... you can't cash it, because there won't be funds left. You can only cash a Bob Frazier check at the bank it is drafted from (First Bank in Savoy) because they bounce so much. It took me about 6 bounced paychecks with NSF and late fees before I just started racing to First Bank on Friday. Bob likes to present himself as a good honest church going business man .... but the truth is that Bob screws over customers, screws over employees, doesn't care about safety, doesn't care about his employees ... Bob just cares about his expensive home and his expensive Jag. Why exactly do you think he's always hiring? He's always hiring because people get sick of getting screwed by him and they quit. If they don't quit he fires them because they care about safety .... and safety means Bob gets to pilfer less cash from his own company.

 

  • Sorry for the bullets, but apparently it is almost impossible to make standard paragraph breaks.

 

johnny wrote on December 08, 2012 at 3:12 pm

You've apparently never taken LEX.  I have only when otherwise stranded, and they're consistently the worst company I've ever dealt with.  They're not so bad from Champaign to Chicago, but from Chicago to Champaign, they're routinely threatening not to take people who've prepaid unless they pay bogus add-ons.  I've had great LEX drivers; the issues always have been on the HQ end.  But this shutdown's many years overdue.

Limo_Master wrote on December 08, 2012 at 6:12 pm

Really Mark?

So no Inspection of buses carrying college students? How about no inspection of the School Bus carrying children? Also the plane you may fly on, regulations for planes are obviously communist. No Inspection/Regulation of Chemical or NUCLEAR plants either. No OSHA Regulations either, damn Communists!

Do yourself a favor and google Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire" to relive the good ol' days prior to any Government regulation.

msudkam2 wrote on December 09, 2012 at 6:12 pm

No seriously.  LEX is a terrible bus service.  Ever student at the university avoids them if they can but it's simply not possible around breaks.  I seriously was afraid for my friends safety any time they took LEX to get home

Herb wrote on December 07, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Mark, I'd like to think your comment was meant to be satirical but I don't have much hope of that. It's nonsense like yours that has caused the majority of Americans to think of the Tea Party as something to be ridiculed or ignored, rather than as a movement that's worth taking seriously. 

rsp wrote on December 07, 2012 at 6:12 pm

The tea party did that on it's own. If I remember correctly one of the platforms is there is too much regulation, it's hurting small businesses. 

David Illinois wrote on December 07, 2012 at 6:12 pm

None the less, it is a less expensive option that the government forced to stop operating.  Is there even one thing that the government improves or makes less expensive?

wayward wrote on December 07, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Kind of depends on what "less expensive" means -- an accident where people were injured or killed could get pretty costly.

spangwurfelt wrote on December 07, 2012 at 7:12 pm

What could be more expensive than death?

illini_trucker wrote on December 08, 2012 at 9:12 am

After the Hours of Service rules change in 2004, I haven't the slightest shred of respect for the FMCSA. 

Most of the time these violations are very nitpick violations. I'm not saying the FMCSA did a good job or not; these allegations cannot be individually found anywhere in paper, so I just have to go on my own experiences. For example, A single FIFTEEN minute violation could cost you literally HUNDREDS!! You turn in fuel receipts for tax purposes. Then the FMCSA throws their weight around and has the authority to pull those records and check them against your log book. 

Any of us could nitpick any company within any industry and find violations; government has everything so heavily regulated now and their noses into everything (thanks DEMS!!) just give us the 1000's of pages of regulations for the given industry and let us go to town!!!

on the flip side! Since I really don't like anything to do with Chicago, this being one less link, I'm not too horribly upset...

HD Brown wrote on December 08, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Soo...are you just using this article to rant about your dislike for the FMCSA?  Because NOTHING you have said relates to the truth about the subject at hand.  

Go to the SAFER site and pull up LEX Express and drill down into each of their inspections...it gives details on every vehicle inspected and the numerous violations AND even states wheather or not it is an out of service violation or not.

pangloss wrote on December 08, 2012 at 10:12 am

This is great news - I used Lex once, and it was a complete nightmare.  The driver didn't know how to drive from Chicago to Champaign, we had to make a stop to switch buses on the way (from one that was in good or better working order to one that was in need of repairs...yes, they specifically made the passengers ride a broken down bus back to Champaign).  The driver that we had was completely incompetent, talking on her cell phone, driving with one or no hands on the interstate for much of the way, wandering into the shoulders and also over the dashed center line.  Bus arrived much later than expected.

What's worse, is that after all of this happened, I wrote up a detailed report of the numerous safety and service issues I had experienced while riding Lex, and sent it to their management.  Instead of responding with an intent to improve their service or to better train/screen their drivers, they defended the driver's horrible driving by telling me that her job with MTD did not pay enough to support her family, and so she needed her job at Lex.  Ok...great.  If a company wants to have jobs as charity for people who need work, that in itself is not a problem.  But don't put them in charge of other people's lives when they have no concern whatsoever for those people.  Dangerous drivers are better off staying at home, and they especially don't need to be employed as bus drivers.

They never apologized or made it clear that they would do anything to correct the situation.  The entire experience and subsequent response made it clear to me that this company does not care one iota for their customers' safety or for the quality of their experience.

george_bailey_1945 wrote on December 08, 2012 at 11:12 am

 

Lex seems to be selling some trips during move-out, in spite of the shutdown order. They must be hiring buses from someone else or something. They must think they've come up with a really f'ing clever solution.

Random Thoughts:

  • It is probably not a good idea for LEX to thumb its nose at DOT. That will not increase LEX's probability of being invited to resume operations, regardless of what the 600 pages, which the LEX dog apparently ate, have to say.

  • If you buy a ticket from LEX at this point, you are a fool. They have probably collected $50k-$100k in revenue for trips they have not yet operated. It's unlikely they have liquid assets sufficient to meet final payroll and provide refunds for everyone. So if you bought a ticket before this all went down, you're probably not getting a refund. But there's nothing you can do. Buying a ticket now, however, would be extremely foolish. You're already on notice that LEX cannot operate! If you buy a ticket now, you are just throwing money down a hole.

  • The reason LEX is shut down is that they have CHRONIC maintenance and compliance issues. No pile of excuses, not even 600 pages worth, can possibly cancel out LEX's history with DOT. LEX is foolish for holding out hope that DOT will give them a reprieve.

  • DOT is engaged in political theatre. Quinn sent LaHood a letter asking that DOT investigate IL bus companies, so that he looks like he cares that Megabus keeps killing IL citizens (3 in the last year or so). LaHood has responded by sending out a posse, with the goal of taking VISIBLE, media-friendly action against some bus companies. According to FOX32, they went after Megabus and LEX. Megabus carries thousands, employs hundreds, has deep pockets and has probably made some nontrivial political contributions. LEX, on the other hand, is a little "downstate" cockroach with no connections. So, if you want to make an example of someone, who you gonna go after? LEX, of course. LEX is being sacrificed at the Media Altar to make the public think that DOT is effective and the public is safe. Shutting down LEX is a nice, tidy melodrama for the public, with no potential backlash for DOT.

  • As for Suburban, their website has suddenly lost a lot of its personality. The bad check page is gone, avoid-lex.com is now a Viagara advertisement, and I heard the owner was at a spa today. Just kidding about the last part. But maybe they're relieved that they don't have to duke it out with LEX anymore. As for me, I'm going to miss their entertaining posters. I never understood why people pretend to be offended - those posters are very funny, even the harsh ones.

  • I also noticed that the IL Shuttle website says something about reduced fares coming. 

  • Peoria is in trouble. If you google peoria charter winkler and look at articles and letter to the editor in the Peoria Journal Star, you'll find owner Winkler whining about how bad business has been (at least 2 articles) and asking oil companies to do their patriotic duty and reduce fuel prices. He seems like a dolt. His grandpa worked hard to build a business, and now he's doing a great job destroying it. They're circling the drain, IMHO. Everyone at Peoria has been sipping the "we're great" kool-aid without realizing that it's poison.

  • I imagine the main beneficiaries of the LEX shutdown, other than Suburban, will be Megabus and Slamtrak. Greyhound may get a little bump, but people seem to actively avoid their urine-soaked ghetto buses.

 

HD Brown wrote on December 08, 2012 at 11:12 am

 

LEX being shut down has been a long time coming...all that agree will say that another rogue transportation company off the map...well, out of the Tiffany Court address, Mr. Frazier has a second DOT number listed for Illini Tours...yes, a subsidiary of LEX and the interesting part is their Out Of Service rating is even worse than the now shut down LEX.  

LEX Express' OOS rating is 47.2%.  Detailed, they had 36 vehicle inspections and 17 of those inspections ended in that vehicle being placed unsafe to drive for reasons ranging from inoperative headlights, windshield wipers, excessive oil leaks, bald tires, excessively worn wiring, insufficient brakes, improper exhaust, etc.  Obviously all a major safety concern. 

Illini Tours OOS rating is 100% for vehicle inspections!!  The national average is 20.72%. 

These numbers mean how many vehicles have been placed out of service versus how many total vehicle inspections have been performed...obviously the lower the number, the better.

You may argue that out of the 36 inspections there may not have been that many serious issues…here’s more detail. 36 total vehicle inspections; 33 of which had vehicle maintenance issues; out of the 33, 17 were serious enough violations to put those vehicles out of service (this means that vehicle cannot move until that issue is repaired or towed away to get it repaired); here’s the real eye opener…total out of the 33 vehicles that were inspected WITH violations…there was a total of 78 vehicle maintenance violations found!  So the statement that Robert Frazier made about we don’t have a safety problem we just have a paperwork problem…that is erroneous! LEX only has 30 vehicles registered…so out of 36 inspections and only 3 vehicles found with no maintenance issues, that isn’t good odds.

I am very familiar with the DOT as I am a business partner of a local transportation provider (I am not going to use this article to plug my business) and have went thru a 2 day audit with the FMSCA.  I know from experience that they do not come into your facility just itching to shut you down, instead if you are cooperative with them, they are more willing to work with you and not nit-pick.  If you show them that you are willing and able to do things the right way, they will give you the opportunity to prove yourself…on the other hand, if you continuously brush them off and continue to do things the wrong way, there is a point in time when the DOT will just come in and shut your business down.  

 

 

 

Dann001 wrote on December 08, 2012 at 12:12 pm

It was only a matter of time!!! Wasn't it Bob?

JRG73 wrote on December 08, 2012 at 2:12 pm

I could literally write pages upon pages of material about Bob and his "company" .... which may happen still.

While it was only a matter of time, I am actually surprised it took this long. With the exception of his "charter" buses, Bob buys almost all of his coaches from Greyhound. Those that even Greyhound will no longer keep in service.

Honestly, I'm surprised it was the DoT that ended LEX and not the department of labor or the federal wage commission.


 

HD Brown wrote on December 08, 2012 at 3:12 pm

Don't forget about tax evasion and EPA violations...Manufacturing your own bio diesel using household water heaters...and dumping the bad batches down the storm drains. 

JRG73 wrote on December 08, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Bob Frasier, interviewed by channel 3 news, lies through his teeth ... and the news outlet doesn't challenge or fact check him.

 

Remember when reporters reported and sometimes investigated?

 

 

jdmac44 wrote on December 09, 2012 at 12:12 pm

I don't have much to add that hasn't already been said, but another former employee here to affirm pretty much everything that's been said here.  Riding LEX is, or rather was, a gamble.  Period.  Give it up Bob, time to find another business to get into.

JRG73 wrote on December 12, 2012 at 9:12 am

What business would that be?

He pretty much ran the charter/shuttle service that fell into his lap (Illini Swallow) into the ground even with some name changes. 

What does he do from here that isn't a failing pool/spa/hottub/fireplace business that you use  your shuttle service as a supply shipper for?

Frasier has displayed that he's too inept to own/manage a business. He has a disdain for his employees, a disdain for his customers, a disdain for safety, a disdain for regulation ... but he really loves spending the cash he should be using to pay his employees and keep both his costomers and employees safe on useless crap and self indulgence.

How many customers has he screwed over? How many times has he thrown an employee under the bus? It's never Bob's fault ... it is either the some government agency or some employee or customer ignorance. It is never ever Bob ... he's got an excuse for everything.

Bob would rather shuttle customers to the airport during an ice storm, knowing that all flights will be cancelled .... because he knows he can charge them again when they want to come back the same day. They can pay him twice to endanger their lives.

Nice Davis wrote on December 09, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I'm disappointed in this decision. I like to count the number of broken down LEX buses on the side of the road when I drive between Champaign and Chicago. What am I supposed to do to pass the time now?

george_bailey_1945 wrote on December 13, 2012 at 9:12 am

LEX website makes it clear that they're not coming back. It appears that they do not have money to make refunds, as predicted. It says that refunds will be issued as assets are liquidated.

I wonder if people will, like, be offered stuff instead of money:

"You can wait for your refund, or we could give you this wonderful bus steering wheel. OR you can have what's in cardboard box #3..."