More Tragic Bus Crashes - Congress Must Act Now

 This week’s fatal tour bus accident in California and a crash in Boston are tragic reminders of why it’s time to address driver fatigue to protect the bus drivers and the passengers they carry says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).

 The union says the carriers, federal officials, and Members of Congress should be held responsible for their failure to address driver fatigue, the number one cause of these accidents according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).

 “When we hear about a tour bus accident we are almost 100 percent sure that the fatigue of the driver played a factor in crash,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents workers at Greyhound and other intercity bus companies. “It’s time for federal agency heads and members of Congress to stop turning a blind eye to the carnage on our highways. We need serious federal regulation of this critical, safety sensitive industry.”

 Sunday’s ski bus crash in California took 7 lives and possibly more, and the accident in Boston injured dozens. Investigations into the causes of both accidents are still being conducted.

 U.S. intercity bus deregulation in the 1980s gave rise to countless small, "fly-by-night" bus operators that have been involved in a growing number of fatal accidents.

In the U.S. intercity bus drivers are exempt from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime provisions, which forces them to work second jobs during their “rest period” just to make ends meet. 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.  

According to the ATU report Sudden Death Overtime, which highlights the issue of 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).

“How many more people need to die in bus crashes before we deal with the real problem behind these accidents,” says Hanley. “The drivers are not innocent, but they have become the scapegoats for accidents caused by these sweatshops on wheels.  Until overtime regulations are enacted and enforced we will continue to see carnage on the highways."