Duck Tours suspends another operator
Driver is unconnected to fatal crash, but record shows 8 incidents since ’03
By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff

One week after a Boston Duck Tours driver was involved in a fatal crash in a company vehicle, a second driver was taken off the job Friday, pending a review of eight incidents listed on his personal driving history since he was hired in 2003.

The second driver, whom company officials did not name, has received six speeding tickets and been involved in two personal accidents since his hire date, according to data on drivers’ records provided to the Globe on Friday at the Boston office of Rasky Baerlein, a public relations firm retained by the tour group.

The company data also showed that of the 58 drivers on staff, 51 have had nodriving incidents in their personal vehicles since being hired, five have had one incident, one had two incidents — plus the driver suspended Friday. The company defined an incident as an accident or a speeding ticket.

Details on the severity of the accidents were not available on Friday night, but the company said that none of the incidents involved duck boats.

The issue of duck boat drivers’ records has come under scrutiny after it was revealed that the driver involved in the April 30 fatal crash, Victor Tavares, had been cited for speeding 10 times since 1994, along with a host of other driving infractions.

The company has maintained that it was not aware of all of his infractions because some of them occurred before the 10-year window available to them during background checks under state law. The company has suspended Tavares pending the outcome of an investigation.

On Friday, company spokesman Joe Baerlein said in a statement that the second driver, with eight post-hire incidents, was placed on leave after questions surfaced about his infractions.

That driver’s suspension came hours after a Globe reporter reviewed the data with Cindy Brown, chief executive of Boston Duck Tours, and Baerlein, and questioned why the second driver was still operating a duck boat.

“Boston Duck Tours has always adhered to the highest safety standards and best practices over their 22-year history,’’ Baerlein said in the statement.

Baerlein said that most of the company’s drivers have “good to excellent driving records’’ but that “the company is now aware that one driver’s driving history raises concerns. Until the investigation is concluded, that driver will not be driving any of our duck boats out of an abundance of caution while the company conducts its internal review.’’

Under state law, the company receives applicants’ driving records from the Registry of Motor Vehicles going back 10 years prior to their hire date. Examining the data for incidents that occurred before hiring, 50 of the 58 Duck Tours drivers had two or fewer incidents on their records in the decade before being hired, and eight had three or four incidents.

The driver who has eight incidents on his record since being hired in 2003, and who was taken off the job Friday, had two speeding tickets, in 1995 and 1998, on his record for the 10 years prior to joining the company, the Duck Tours data showed. The company said it was legally prohibited from naming that operator.

Baerlein said in another e-mail message that “overall, when you examine the totality of the duck boat driving history, it is by and large a very good one and that the training programs and criteria they use to select and train their drivers is very comprehensive.’’

Last Saturday, the duck boat that Tavares was driving collided with a scooter at the intersection of Charles and Beacon streets, killing 28-year-old Allison Warmuth. No criminal charges have been filed.

Jake Wark, a spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office, said the crash reconstruction analysis is still ongoing.

Tavares remained eligible to drive the popular tour vehicles because he had not reached the threshold that would disqualify him: four traffic offenses within the last three years, according to Boston police.

The Boston Police Hackney Unit approved his renewal application on March 15, about six weeks before the fatal accident.

Brown, the Duck Tours chief executive, also said company boats make approximately 20,000 trips each year on land and sea throughout the city, mainly without incident.

She also touted the training that all drivers undergo before they can begin ferrying around tourists.

According to the company’s website, the 8-to-10-week training regime for all prospective drivers includes a physical and a drug test, CPR and first-aid training, classroom instruction on checking boats for mechanical issues, liability rules, fraud prevention, and safe-driving practices.

In addition, each new driver “spends four to six weeks, depending on his/her progress, driving the tour routes, accompanied by an instructor, on both land and water while practicing his/her narration,’’ the website says.

The site also indicates that all drivers must maintain a commercial driver’s license with a passenger endorsement, a motor bus driver’s certificate, a city of Boston sight-seeing driver’s license, a city of Cambridge Jitney Operator’s license, and a US Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Credential, among other licenses.

“All licenses are tracked and maintained to ensure none of the driver’s licenses or certifications expires,’’ the site says. “If a driver fails to update any of the credentials, they are pulled off of the road immediately until they have done so.’’

Jan Ransom of the Globe Staff and Globe Correspondent Reenat Sinay contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at