MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Shelby County School District charter bus that caught on fire Tuesday night did not have a permit to operate in the city, according to Memphis city officials.
The company, which operates out of Memphis, is called Jefferson Travel and Tours Inc.
A bus from the company caught fire Tuesday night on southbound I-55, north of Shelby Drive. The bus was carrying Central High School athletes to Whitehaven.
The owner of the bus company, Arthur Jefferson, said he was unaware his company needed a permit for the city.
“He doesn’t have to have a permit because he operates under federal regulations,” he added.
Jefferson said he operates three buses that travel throughout the Mid-South, as well as Florida, Illinois, Washington, D.C., and Canada.
Jefferson Travel and Tours Inc. does not have a federal safety rating.
A spokesperson with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), said he didn’t know why the company didn’t have a rating. In order to receive a rating, a company needs to be audited, meaning the bus’s maintenance needs to be checked, along with screenings of the drivers.
Jefferson said no one has ever inspected his buses.
According to records by the FMCSA, the fire on I-55 is the first safety problem for the bus in the past two years. Safety records do not date back before that.
Other records show Jefferson Travel and Tours Inc. went out of business twice in the last decade, and an insurance company canceled it’s policy. It was reinstated in October of 2013.
A representative with Shelby County Schools said charter bus companies fill out an application to be a vendor. The school district released this statement on Wednesday: “Shelby County Schools is investigating the bus fire involving Jefferson Travel and Tours, Inc. The District has removed the charter bus company from its list of vendors pending the outcome of the investigation.”