NTSB Ruling on Virginia Motorcoach Crash Confirms Motorcoach Reform Must Address Driver Fatigue

NTSB Ruling on Virginia Motorcoach Crash Confirms Motorcoach Reform Must Address Driver Fatigue

Transit Union says ruling echoes Bronx accident report, unfair labor standards for drivers continues to put passengers and drivers at risk

Washington, DC – Today’s National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) ruling that driver fatigue caused the Virginia I-95 motorcoach accident that took 4 lives and injured 49 in May 2011, confirms that driver fatigue, the single largest cause of fatal intercity bus accidents, must be addressed in bus safety reform and legislation, says the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU).

The ruling echoes another report by the NTSB released in June that cited driver fatigue as the cause of a Bronx bus crash that killed 15 passengers.  In the case of the Virginia crash, the driver admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.

ATU called for passage of the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, legislation introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-NY, which would extend the overtime protections of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) to over-the-road drivers.

“As with the Bronx crash ruling, we were not all surprised that the NTSB found that driver fatigue was the cause of the tragic Virginia crash that devastated 4 families and many lives,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents drivers at Greyhound and other intercity bus operators. “The evidence is overwhelming that this is a long standing problem in this industry. Until the FMSCA, American Bus Association, and Congress wake up and address this issue we are going to continue to see these grisly scenes of bus accidents on our highways.

“While the DOT’s more rigorous regulatory stings continue to take unscrupulous operators off the road, any serious proposal to clean up the discount bus industry unequivocally has to include an effective solution for driver fatigue. If we don’t, we’ll continue to put passengers and drivers at risk.”

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) itself has identified “driver fatigue as a contributing factor to fatal motorcoach accidents” and has added eliminating the problem as an issue on its Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements.

According to the ATU report Sudden Death Overtime, which highlights the issue of intercity bus accidents, the NTSB estimates that 36% 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 (2%) or inattention (6%).

Currently intercity bus drivers are exempt from these provisions and many are forced to work second jobs during their so-called “rest period” just to make ends meet. Under the Driver Fatigue Prevention Act, drivers would get paid fairly for the work they put in above 40 hours per week, making them less inclined to work other jobs while pushing their bodies to the limit.

“For decades the FLSA has covered 85 percent of American workers,” says Hanley. “In the intercity bus industry, the lack of guaranteed overtime pay after a 40-hour work week is a dangerous exception to the rule. Extending these protections to intercity bus drivers is not only the right thing to do; it’s the safe thing to do for our riders and our drivers.”