Transit union says carriers, federal agency, policy makers are co-conspirators for failure to address driver fatigue, the chief cause of motorcoach accidents nationwide
Media Contact: David Roscow, 202-537-1645 x 254
Washington, DC – The convicted Virginia bus crash driver is a scapegoat for an industry that has become a sweatshop on wheels, says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) in reaction to yesterday’s verdict convicting the driver on four counts of involuntary manslaughter in the deadly May 2011 Virginia motorcoach accident that took four lives.
The union says the carriers, federal officials, and Members of Congress should be held responsible for their failure to address driver fatigue, the number one cause of these accidents according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The agency’s report on the Virginia crash cited driver’s fatigue as the cause of the accident.
“The conviction, and possible jail time, of this bus driver is making him a scapegoat for an industry that has become a sweatshop on wheels,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents workers at Greyhound and other intercity bus companies. “The unindicted co-conspirators in this conviction are federal agency heads and members of Congress who are turning a blind eye to the carnage on our highways caused by a lack of federal regulation of this critical, safety sensitive industry.”
Currently, intercity bus drivers are exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime provisions and many are forced to work second jobs during their so-called “rest period” just to make ends meet. The union supported the Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sponsored Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, which ensured 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.
According to the ATU report Sudden Death Overtime, which highlights the issue of intercity bus accidents, the NTSB estimates that 36 percent 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 percent) or inattention (6 percent).
“Bus drivers are strictly regulated for off-duty activities, but companies are permitted to overwork and under pay their drivers, which forces them to work often until they drop,” says Hanley.
In the case of the May 2011 crash, Sky Express, the bus carrier involved, already had a poor safety rating prior to crash and was on the verge of being shut down.
“I am not saying this driver was innocent,” says Hanley, “but there were many hands, that caused that wheel to turn and that bus to run off the highway, who will remain free while this worker pays the price for corporate greed and government indifference. Some are those of company owners but others are government officials who should also be held responsible for the four deaths on that tragic day.”
About the ATU
The Amalgamated Transit Union is the largest labor organization representing transit workers in the United States and Canada. Founded in 1892, the ATU today is comprised of over 190,000 members in 264 local unions spread across 44 states and nine provinces, including 3,000 workers at Greyhound Lines, Inc. Composed of bus drivers, light rail operators, maintenance and clerical personnel and other transit and municipal employees, the ATU works to promote transit issues and fights for the interests of its hard-working members.