19 Investigates: DOT inspected trucking, charter bus companies and found violations prior to deadly Ohio crash

Multiple safety violations found during federal inspections
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 6:01 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The charter bus and trucking companies involved in a deadly crash in Licking County have been inspected dozens of times over the past two years by the Department of Transportation, prompting numerous safety-related violations, according to records uncovered by 19 Investigates.

Six people were killed and at least 18 injured following a multi-vehicle crash on I-70 Tuesday morning that involved a semi-truck and a tour bus carrying students from Tuscarawas Valley Local Schools.

The cause of the crash remains under investigation.

Pioneer Trails, the operator of the charter bus, is a family-owned company based in Millersburg, Ohio that has been in business for over 33 years.

Pioneer’s largest charter bus carries 56 passengers, according to the company’s website.

19 Investigates scanned through DOT reports, which document the company’s inspection and safety history over the past 24 months.

During that time, we found Pioneer Trails was inspected 91 times by the DOT, received 9 violations, and was involved in one crash with a non-fatal injury.

This past July, records show the tour bus company was also cited for having leaky brake connections under the vehicle. In May 2022, Pioneer was hit with five violations, including for having defective emergency exit windows, insufficient warning devices, and failing to inspect or use emergency equipment.

In June 2022, a driver was cited for operating a charter bus without a CDL license, which is required by law.

Reports show that in 2017, Pioneer Trails was fined $11,560 for not doing drug or alcohol testing on a driver after having an accident outside of the country.

In 2022, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration reported that since Pioneer Trails had four violations in the past 24 months, “Pioneer was cited with one or more acute/critical violations...therefore, this carrier may be prioritized for an intervention action and roadside inspection.”

19 Investigates also dug into the safety and inspection history of Mid State Systems Inc., the company whose semi-truck crashed into the back of the tour bus and caught fire.

Mid State Systems operates out of Hebron in Licking County, less than 10 miles from where the crash happened in Etna.

On its website, Mid State Systems states it has been operating for more than 35 years.

Federal records show the company transports chemicals, paper products, and “general freight.”

According to the FMCSA, the trucking company has had no reported fatal crashes or any involving injuries during the past two years.

Records show the company had more than 38 inspections during that time, including 17 hazmat inspections.

Two hazmat inspections resulted in an ‘out of service’ status, meaning one or more violations was found. That percentage is higher than the national average, according to DOT.

A company representative said ‘no comment’ when contacted by 19 Investigates on Tuesday.