The bus that caught fire near Dallas, killing 24 elderly passengers, would not have been allowed on the road were it not for Texas Governor Rick Perry.
Mark Cross, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Transportation, said Saturday morning that the bus’s registration expired in July and that the vehicle had been taken out of service. But it was allowed back on the road because of a waiver signed last week by Gov. Rick Perry of Texas intended to get as many vehicles as possible involved in the hurricane evacuation and relief effort.
“I direct that all requirements concerning motor carrier registration, single-state registration, and international registration plan, and international fuel tax agreement be suspended for motor carriers traveling within or into Texas to assist with relief efforts,” the governor wrote in a letter to Richard F. Williamson, chairman of the Texas Transportation Commission.
The waiver – for all commercial vehicles, not just buses – also temporarily suspended limits on the number of hours those vehicles could be operated. The bus that exploded had been on the road for more than 14 hours, traveling from Bellaire, a few miles southwest of downtown Houston, to within 15 miles of its destination when the accident occurred at 6:30 a.m. near Wilmer, Tex.
“I ask all Texas law enforcement and other federal and state officials to honor this letter as a blanket permit,” Mr. Perry wrote.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration said that drivers for Global had been ordered to stop driving five times in the last 33 months, mostly for infractions regarding bus logs.
Johnny Partain, a former oil industry engineer who now runs a company that installs generators in McAllen, has been embroiled for years in a lawsuit with Mr. Maples over a 1997 investment he made in Global. Mr. Partain said he warned a judge more than a year ago that Global’s buses were dangerous and ill-maintained.
“I told them this was going to happen,” Mr. Partain said. “I’ve personally driven those buses. I know what condition they’re in.”