NEW YORK (Reuters) - Eight bus companies in New York had their operating licenses suspended for repeatedly violating safety rules, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a crackdown following a fatal Bronx crash in March.
The coach and tour bus companies have each failed three or more roadside inspections in the last six months, or failed their semi-annual bus inspections or received a federal "out-of-service" order, Cuomo said in a statement.
But several of the companies contacted on Tuesday said that they were never notified by the state and maintained they have unblemished safety records.
"The frequent, and at times flagrant, violations of state and federal safety regulations by charter bus companies has gone on for too long and put too many lives at risk," Cuomo said in a statement on Monday.
As part of the crackdown, state transportation officials have performed some 3,000 roadside inspections in the last four months, compared with 615 in all of 2010, the Cuomo administration said. The state said it is hiring 20 additional inspectors.
The eight companies named in the statement are Best Trails and Travel Corp; Party Ride, A & W Tours, Inc.; Touch of Class & Coach, Inc.; Silver Star Limo Company, LLC; Zoladz Limousine Service; Long Island Limousine Service Corp.; and Big Apple Bus Charter, Inc.
They jointly operate around 100 buses or other vehicles on New York roads, Cuomo's office said.
They must halt operations by early next week, and pay for a complete Department of Transportation review of their fleets and company records or face permanent loss of their right to do business in New York.
Several of the affected companies said the action appeared to be the result of a misunderstanding and they always abide by safety rules.
"We don't even know what's going on, we haven't been notified," said Mario Da Rocha, an owner of the Silver Star Limo Company in Yonkers.
"We've been in business since 1983 and we have a great safety record. If we were a fly-by-night company it would be one thing, but we take our reputation very seriously. It's going to hurt my name."
He said his company had always complied with safety requirements, had not failed any inspections and that he was trying to get the problem resolved.
The Bronx District Attorney and the state police are still investigating the March 12 fatal bus accident, in which a tour bus heading back to New York's Chinatown from a Connecticut casino crashed on a Bronx highway in early morning hours, killing 15 passengers.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Greg McCune)