MOTORCOACH SAFETY REFORM & LEGISLATION MUST ADDRESS DRIVER FATIGUE
Transit Union Praises DOT shutdown of 26 bus operators, but
Fail to acknowledge ongoing impact of unfair labor standards for motorcoach drivers
Washington, DC - Driver fatigue, the single largest cause of fatal intercity bus accidents, must be addressed in bus safety reform and legislation says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in reaction to the Department of Transportation’s shutdown of 26 bus operators for imminent hazards to public safety.
ATU applauded the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) unprecedented sweep of the discount bus industry, but urged passage of the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, legislationintroduced by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, which would extend the overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act(FLSA) to over-the-road drivers.
“We were frankly disappointed and continue to be disappointed that the FMSCA and American Bus Association continue to ignore the impact of the issue of driver fatigue on bus operators,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents drivers at Greyhound and other intercity bus operators. “While the new DOT’s more rigorous regulatory regime for this industry is critically important – any serious proposal to clean up the discount bus industry unequivocally has to include an effective solution for driver fatigue.
“Hundreds of intercity bus companies get away with paying their bus drivers criminally low wages, forcing drivers to work 100 hours a week or more, often balancing two or three jobs, just to make a living. Unsuspecting customers get on these buses and disaster can strike.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has identified “driver fatigue as a contributing factor to fatal motorcoach accidents” and has added eliminating the problem as an issue on its Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements.
According to the ATU report Sudden Death Overtime, which highlights the issue of intercity bus accidents, the NTSB estimates that 36% of motorcoach crash fatalities over the past decade have been due to driver fatigue. It is the number one cause of fatal accidents, far above road conditions (2%) or inattention (6%).
Currently intercity bus drivers are exempt from these provisions and many are forced to work second jobs during their so-called “rest period” just to make ends meet. Under the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, drivers would get paid fairly for the work they put in above 40 hours per week, making them less inclined to work other jobs while pushing their bodies to the limit.
“For decades the FLSA has covered 85 percent of American workers,” says Hanley. “In the intercity bus industry, the lack of guaranteed overtime pay after a forty-hour work week is a dangerous exception to the rule. Extending these protections to intercity bus drivers is not only the right thing to do; it’s the safe thing to do for our riders. Until the issue of driver fatigue is addressed, no legislation to improve intercity bus safetywill be complete, or effective.”