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Oct 26

ATU Applauds Driver Fatigue Prevention Act

Addresses Single Largest Cause of Fatal Intercity Bus Accidents - Driver Fatigue

ATU Urges Congress To Pass Legislation

As New York City holds a hearing on the recent fatal Flushing casino bus crash, the introduction of new federal legislation addressing the single largest cause of fatal intercity bus accidents – driver fatigue – was praised by ATU, which represents drivers at Greyhound and other intercity bus operators.

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, ensures that the overtime provisions in the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are extended to cover drivers of over-the-road buses. Currently the employers of these bus drivers are exempt from these provisions, forcing many drivers to work second jobs during their so-called “rest period” just to make ends meet.

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 (two percent) or inattention (six percent). 

“We applaud Senator Casey and Representative Speier for introducing the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act to address the real problem in this industry – driver fatigue,” says ATU International President Larry Hanley. “Is working a 15-hour day not enough to earn a living? This bill will extend important labor protections most other workers take for granted to intercity bus drivers and fairly compensate them for overtime work.”

In reaction to accidents like the fatal Flushing crash, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCA) will announce a crackdown with spot safety checks of bus companies, pulling over a tiny fraction of OTR buses in an effort to check rule compliance, examine log books, and determine if required rest periods are taking place. But according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), there are 878 federal and state inspectors able to conduct safety reviews of 765,000 bus and truck companies, or an average of slightly more than one inspector for 1,000 companies.

“The FMCSA and states are just playing a dangerous game of ‘Wack-a-Mole’ to get unscrupulous operators off the streets. Even when a bad actor is taken out of service, they quickly get back on the road by changing their name,” Hanley says. “But it does nothing to address the real problem driver fatigue, which is the number one cause of fatal bus accidents on our highways.”

Deregulation of the bus industry in the 1980s gave rise to countless small, "fly-by-night" operators that have been involved in an increasing number of deadly crashes. This 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.

“Operators are now free to set their own rates, allowing customers to lock in jaw-dropping fares between certain cities – a relative sweatshop on wheels.  Then unsuspecting customers get on these buses and disaster can strike,” Hanley continued. 

“How many more people need to die in bus crashes before we deal with the real problem behind these accidents?,” Hanley continued. “Congress needs to put this bill on the fast track to ensure intercity bus drivers don’t have to resort to doctoring log books, working other jobs and wearily reporting for duty with a giant cup of coffee.”