DUI conviction not enough to get bus driver banned from job

NEW YORK (AP) — A bus driver who barreled through a red light and slammed into another bus in New York City this month, killing himself and two others, had a history of accidents and a recent conviction for driving drunk, but he was legally allowed to drive under federal rules that grant one strike before banning a driver for life.

Raymond Mong lost a job as a New York City bus driver in 2015 after pleading guilty to an off-duty, hit-and-run, drunken-driving crash in Connecticut. He was still serving 18 months’ probation when he got into another crash in his personal vehicle in June of 2016.

Neither of those wrecks, though, kept him from legally getting behind the wheel of a bus again.

He got a job with a charter company and had a valid commercial driver’s license on Sept. 18 when he powered his empty bus through an intersection in Queens at nearly twice the 30 mph (48 kph) speed limit, hit another bus, plowed onto a sidewalk and crashed into a building, police said. Sixteen people were hurt in addition to the three killed.

It isn’t clear exactly when Mong started driving for the charter company, a small outfit called the Dahlia Group.

It’s possible his out-of-state conviction slipped through the cracks. Private motorcoach operators aren’t required by federal law to do a criminal background check on employees, though the rules differ for school bus drivers or anyone carrying hazardous materials. And there’s no clearinghouse where companies can search a prospective employee’s criminally bad driving record.

New York’s Department of Motor Vehicles is supposed to be informed whenever a driver is hired so it can run various background checks, but a spokeswoman for the agency said Dahlia never did so.

But even if that notification had been made, it wouldn’t necessarily have precluded Mong from driving.

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