A tour bus crashed into a construction site in the area of Stockton and Post streets near Union Square on Nov. 13, 2015. (Mike Koozmin/S.F. Examiner)

More faulty tour buses found at company responsible for Union Square crash

A City Sightseeing San Francisco tour bus careened into scaffolding at Union Square in November, injuring 20 people.

Now an inspection by the California Highway Patrol spurred by that crash has found additional faulty vehicles, according to City Sightseeing San Francisco.

City Sightseeing was allowed to respond to the inspection findings before they are released to the public. In a statement released late Tuesday by Christian Watts, CEO of City Sightseeing San Francisco, he said the CHP found “issues” with vehicles, and paperwork.

“We are in receipt of the California Highway Patrol’s comprehensive inspection of our buses,” said Watts, in the statement. “The CHP review identified certain issues that they’ve directed us to resolve.”

The Examiner obtained that report, and it featured a litany of broken buses, failure to inspect buses, and drivers working far more than eight hours a day – for starters.

Three out of City Sightseeing’s drivers drove with expired licenses, according to the report.

City Sightseeing wasn’t participating in the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Pull Notice System, because 17 of its drivers were suspended for the program for not paying the DMV on time.

And the drivers that were on the road kept log times that may seem extreme – Driver John Ulrich, for instance filed time records indicating he drove 13.5 hours a day, driver Jonathon Oliver’s records showed he drove 12.5 hours a day, and driver Kenneth Malvar’s records show he drove 15 hours a day.

Buses were pulled out of service for repair. One had a fuel leak, another had inoperative brake lamps, and others had inoperative emergency exits. The report showed drivers weren’t required to file daily vehicle inspection reports. More than 20 percent of the buses sampled (they did not test all of them) were placed out of service.

Watts said City Sightseeing resolved “all vehicle-related matters right away, with most issues being fixed on the day of the inspection.”

CHP also found fault in City Sightseeing’s paperwork procedures, Watts wrote.

“As a result, we have instituted operational changes to our internal processes to ensure future compliance. We have invited the CHP in writing to return at their convenience to confirm that all issues in the report have been resolved.” he wrote.

If City Sightseeing doesn’t come into compliance with CHP’s recommendations in 120 days, a complaint for prosecution may be filed with the District Attorney’s office, according to CHP documents.

Touching on City Sightseeing’s next steps, Watts said, “We continue to cooperate fully with the investigators to help them find the answers they – and we – seek.”

Bus driver Kenneth Malvar, 52, was behind the wheel of the tour bus which crashed into the Union Square scaffolding. His attorney, Robert Cartwright, told the Associated Press that Malvar did everything he could to stop the bus.

Cartwright said Malvar tried to slow the bus by clipping parked cars and large construction containers filled with water serving as buffers to no avail. That’s when he decided to drive the bus into scaffolding at a construction site that will soon turn into an Apple retail store.

“He tried everything,” Cartwright said. “He was powerless to stop the bus.”

Cartwright said Malvar has worked for the tour group without incident since 2005.

As the Examiner previously reported, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates tour buses, said the runaway bus was not registered with the commission and therefore did not undergo a safety inspection by the CHP.

Last month state lawmakers Assemblyman David Chiu, State Senator Jerry Hill, and Assemblyman Phil Ting announced legislation to tighten regulations around inspections of tour buses in California.

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