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Over the Road

Intercity bus service is a critical component of our surface transportation system. Greyhound is the dominant carrier in the U.S. and Canada, offering scheduled services across a large geographic network. Regional carriers continue to play a significant role however, and ATU members also operate motorcoaches for companies such as Peter Pan, Southeastern Stages, and Frank Martz Coach Company, among others.

The industry has been rocked by many high-profile fatal accidents involving charter and casino buses in New York, California, Oregon and others. In most of these accidents driver fatigue is a factor. In fact, the National Transportation Safety Board (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). 

In reaction to fatal bus accidents, 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 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

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.

Data show that wages, when adjusted for inflation, are on the decline in the intercity bus industry. Further, the law does not require companies to pay intercity bus drivers overtime pay for hours worked over 40 per week. As a result of the low wages and lack of overtime pay, many drivers are forced to work second jobs during their so-called “rest period” just to make ends meet. Pushing their bodies to the edge poses not only a serious risk to their health, but a very real threat to the lives of the passengers they transport.

Dr. Michael Belzer of Wayne State University in Detroit compared crash data and found that unionized carriers are more than twice as safe as “curbside” bus companies. Regulators place curbside bus drivers “out of service” for violations such as fatigue at six times the rate than that of unionized drivers.

Responding to the series of fatal accidents, the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act was introduced by Senator Bob Casey, D-PA, in the Senate and in the House by Representative Jackie Speier, D-CA, to ensure 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

ATU Priorities:

  1. Remove the exemption of intercity bus drivers from the Fair Labor Standards Act, allowing them to earn overtime pay like many other workers.
  2. Establish a national “safe wage” for over-the-road bus operators.
  3. More rigorous enforcement of federal regulations to keep unsafe carriers off the road


Online Resources:

    •  President Hanley’s Congressional Testimony on Intercity Bus Safety
    •  DOT Procedures for Transportation Workplace Drug and Alcohol Testing Programs
    •  What Employees Need To Know About DOT Alcohol & Drug Testing
    •  FMCSA Drug & Alcohol Testing Guide
    •  Sudden Death Overtime