Media Center

Mar 23

Asleep at the Wheel: Close Call with Fatigued Dallas Greyhound Driver Highlights Sweatshops on Wheels

Transit union says policy makers & carriers are co-conspirators
in failure to address driver fatigue

A close call involving Greyhound passengers forcing their bus driver who was falling asleep to stop driving highlights why it’s time to address bus driver fatigue to protect the bus drivers and the passengers they carry says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).

 “This driver was pinching her cheeks with tweezers just to stay awake behind the wheel. It’s Congress, federal officials, and bus companies who are asleep at the wheel in their continued failure to address the root cause of these fatal bus crashes – driver fatigue,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents workers at Greyhound and other intercity bus companies. “We need serious federal regulation of this critical, safety sensitive industry or there will be carnage on our nation’s highways.”

Just last week a charter bus carrying students and adult chaperones to Houston, TX, from Disney World went into the median and plummeted down a 50-foot ravine, killing the driver and injuring dozens.  While the investigation is still under way driver fatigue is being considered.

In the U.S., the employers of intercity bus drivers are exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). Drivers are overworked which leads to driver fatigue – the number one cause of motorcoach crash fatalities over the past decade, according to the NTSB.

Furthermore, deregulation of the industry in the 1980s lead to the creation of more than 3,700 commercial motor coach and van companies in the United States – far more than the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration can monitor for compliance with safety regulations. In fact, one in four commercial motorcoach and passenger van companies has never received a full safety evaluation. Almost half have not been reviewed in over two years.

This deregulation has allowed hundreds of intercity bus companies to get away with paying their 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.

ATU has called for passage of the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, introduced by Senator Bob Casey, D-PA, in the Senate and in the House by Representative Jackie Speier, D-CA. This bill would ensure that the overtime provisions in the FLSA are extended to cover drivers of over-the-road buses.

“Is working a 15-hour day not enough to earn a living? It’s time for the government to extend the labor protections most other workers get to intercity bus drivers and fairly compensate them for overtime work,” says Hanley.  ““Congress needs to put the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act on the fast track or intercity bus drivers will continue to wearily report for duty with tweezers and a giant cup of coffee.”