Transit union says NTSB failure to address ‘elephant in the room’ will result in more tragic deaths, injuries
Washington, DC – While the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced bus driver fatigue among its most wanted safety concerns, no real reform can ignore the industry’s blatant abuse of overtime for drivers says the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents workers at Greyhound and other intercity bus companies.
“The NTSB recognized motorcoach driver fatigue as a serious problem in the industry,” said ATU International President Larry Hanley, “but they ignored the ‘elephant in the room’ that is the real reason behind these tragic accidents that have taken so many lives.”
The elephant is the agency’s neglect to recognize that intercity bus operators 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. Unlike 80 percent of American workers covered under FLSA, bus drivers are not paid overtime for work over 40 hours per week.
“Federal government agencies, bus companies, and Members of Congress are partners in a conspiracy of silence about the real cause of driver fatigue, which is rooted in working conditions, wage rates, the absence of fair labor standards for intercity bus drivers,” says Hanley.
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).
“The problem with the government analysis of this problem is that there is a vested interest in American politics in avoiding issues of working conditions, worker safety and anything that calls for corporate responsibility,” says Hanley.
The union says drivers are being blamed for these accidents as evidenced by last week’s conviction on four counts of involuntary manslaughter of the driver of the May 2011 Virginia motorcoach accident that took four lives.
“Not only has the government and the industry turned a blind eye to the real reasons for so many of these deadly crashes on our highways, but, the drivers in these accidents are scapegoats for an industry that has become a sweatshop on wheels,” says Hanley.
The union supported the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, sponsored the Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), 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.
“The federal agencies, Congress and bus companies need to recognize that to deal with the problem of driver fatigue we need laws that would require intercity bus operators to abide by the same overtime rules governing the majority of American workers,” said Hanley. “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 and our drivers.”
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.