Washington, DC (June 16, 2011) – In response to a string of tragic intercity bus accidents this year, Sudden Death Overtime, a new report highlighting driver fatigue as the single largest cause of these fatal bus crashes, was released today by the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). The ATU also renewed their call for Congress to address driver fatigue as part of the bus safety legislation currently under consideration in Washington.
According to Sudden Death Overtime, the National Transportation Safety Board 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 (two percent) or inattention (six percent). The full report can be found at www.atu.org.
“Hundreds of intercity bus companies – usually tiny operations that have only a few buses – get away with paying their bus drivers criminally low wages,” said Lawrence J. Hanley, International President of the ATU. “As a result, bus drivers are being forced to work 100 hours a week or more, often balancing two or three jobs, just to make a living. The unsuspecting customers get on these buses and disaster can strike.”
In response to the series of fatal bus crashes this year, Congress has introduced The Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011, led in the Senate by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and by Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) in the House. While the bill makes some long-overdue and important changes to regulations in the industry, it does not include a specific proposal to address driver fatigue.
“At the end of the day, technical fixes like seatbelts and driver training – while incredibly important – won’t prevent crashes so long as drivers aren’t stopped from getting behind the wheel on zero sleep,” said Hanley. “Any serious proposal to clean up the discount bus industry unequivocally has to include a solution for driver fatigue.”
Hanley and the ATU are calling on Congress to include an amendment to the Motorcoach Enhanced Safety Act of 2011 that would ensure that the overtime provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are applied to bus drivers for these companies. 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 ATU’s proposed reforms, 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 FLSA has covered 85 percent of American workers,” said 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 safety will be complete, or effective.”
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.
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Emily Browne (Sunshine Sachs)
Jeff Rosenberg (ATU)