Transit union says policy makers, federal agencies & carriers must be held accountable for failure to address driver fatigue, the chief cause of motorcoach accidents nationwide
Miami, FL - After a bus accident in Miami left two dead the Amalgamated Transit Union, the largest transit workers’ union, asked how many more must die before overtime provisions are put in place to protect bus drivers and the passengers they carry.
The latest deadly accident at Miami International Airport involved a charter bus, belonging to the Miami Bus Service Corporation. The company received three citations related to driver fatigue in April 2011 and scored a 92.2 percent in the fatigued driving category, which means it exceeded the federal safety threshold based on roadside data.
“These bus drivers are scapegoats for an industry that has become a sweatshop on wheels,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents workers at Greyhound and many intercity bus companies. “How many more deaths are necessary before Congress, federal agencies and bus companies recognize that overtime provisions for bus drivers must be enacted to ensure passenger safety?”
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. As a remedy, the union supports the Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) sponsored Driver Fatigue Prevention Act. The bill would ensure that 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).
Last month, a bus driver was convicted on four counts of involuntary manslaughter for the deadly May 2011 Virginia motorcoach accident that took four lives.
“The drivers are not innocent in these accidents,” Hanley continued. “But the carriers who force drivers to work beyond their body’s limit and government officials who have failed to regulate the industry to protect drivers and passengers must be held accountable. Until overtime regulations are enacted and enforced we will continue to see carnage on the highways.”
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.