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Gov’t “Quick Strike” Shutters More Unsafe Tour Bus Companies, But Driver Fatigue Still Unaddressed

Transit union says federal agencies; policy makers  & carriers continue to ignore driver fatigue – the chief cause of fatal accidents

Washington, DC – While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration shut down 52 more unsafe tour bus companies, until the industry’s blatant abuse of workers and working conditions including overtime pay for drivers that are causing the fatal bus accidents are addressed they will continue says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).

U.S. intercity bus companies are exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) provisions requiring employers to pay overtime, which invites these operators to overwork their low wage drivers, often forcing them to work second jobs during their “rest period” just to make ends meet.

“While this “Quick Strike” operation is critically important, any serious proposal to clean up the discount bus industry must, unequivocally, address the driver fatigue,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents workers at Greyhound and other intercity bus companies. “Until Congress deals with bus driver fatigue we will continue to see carnage on the highways."

According to ATU’s Sudden Death Overtime report on intercity bus accidents, the National Transportation Safety Board estimates that 36 percent of U.S. 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 deregulation of the industry in the 1980s, leading to an explosive growth of small, “fly-by-night” interstate bus operations, has also contributed to the tragic acceleration in the number of these fatal accidents.  Midnight Express and Salt Lake Shuttle – two of the companies just shuttered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration – are products of deregulation.

“As with the recent Metro-North train crash and any commercial airplane accident it is a major news story and media cover it “24-7.” But when a fatal bus accident occurs it’s usually a one-day story that receives minimal media attention,” says Hanley. “However, over the last decade three times as many people have been killed in intercity bus accidents than in commercial airline crashes.”

“Hundreds of intercity bus companies get away with paying their bus 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,” says Hanley. “Unsuspecting customers get on these buses and disaster can strike.”

ATU supports the Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-NY, sponsored Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, which would ensure that drivers are paid fairly for the work they put in above 40 hours per week, making them less inclined to work other jobs and push their bodies beyond the limits of human endurance.  

“The government’s crackdown will take unscrupulous operators off the roads, but Congress and federal agencies continue to ignore the real cause of these accidents – driver fatigue,” says Hanley. “ Until overtime and other regulations for bus drivers are restored and enforced we will continue to see carnage on our highways."