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New York cracks down on bus safety after deadly crash

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A state transportation crackdown in the wake of last month's deadly Bronx bus crash has taken 124 bus drivers and 96 buses off New York roads, officials said on Friday.

Major problems included buses with faulty brakes and drivers who lied about getting proper rest, a state transportation spokeswoman Jennifer Post said.

Inspectors from the New York State Department of Transportation worked with state police to conduct 1,286 random roadside checks since Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the effort on March 17, Post said.

That was just days after 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 people.

Since the ramped-up enforcement began, police have issued more than 150 moving violation tickets to bus drivers, authorities said.

Among the most egregious offenses was a North Carolina bus that was taken out of service because the driver had falsified his log book, Post said. A replacement driver sent to take over the bus was also sidelined after authorities found he, too, falsified his log book.

Post said some drivers were ordered off duty after they were found to lack required rest to get behind the wheel.

Another bus and driver, this time from Pennsylvania, sounded like an accident waiting to happen when stopped by police in the crackdown.

"The driver was operating without a commercial driver's license and also did not have a certificate to show he had passed a federal DOT physical exam within the past 24 months," Post said.

"The bus didn't have proper periodic safety inspections, there were bad brakes, an audible leak in the brake hose, it was leaking transmission fluid and engine fluid, the battery was loose and the light over the rear license plate was out," she said.

Details of the safety infractions on New York roads emerged as the National Transportation Safety Board in Washington, D.C., released its preliminary report on the Bronx crash. It found the bus was traveling at its maximum speed of 78 miles per hour just 45 seconds before the deadly crash.

Cuomo said his administration was simply aggressively enforcing the law.

"Bus drivers who don't follow the rules as well as buses that are unsafe must be taken off the road so that New Yorkers can have confidence in the safety of the public transportation system," the governor said in a statement.

Transportation officials said their "zero tolerance" policy has sidelined unsafe drivers and equipment.

"DOT inspectors continue to perform stepped-up roadside critical component checks, and -- even though this crackdown is now well-known -- they are still finding violations serious enough to take buses or drivers off the road," said New York state Transportation Commissioner Joan McDonald.

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; editing by Greg McCune and Peter Bohan)

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