U.S. Ban of Canadain Bus Company in Oregon Crash Too Late for Victims

Media Contact: David Roscow, 202-537-1645 x 254

Washington, DC - How many more must die before the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament address driver fatigue to protect bus drivers and the passengers they carry?  

That’s the question the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the largest transit union in North America, is asking in the wake of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s action banning further U.S. operations by Mi Joo Tour & Travel, the Canadian owner of an intercity bus that crashed in Oregon late last month killing nine and injuring 39.

The driver of the bus had worked 92 hours in the seven days before the crash – far above the 70 hours allowed. The U.S DOT ordered the Vancouver operator to cease U.S. operations because it poses an “imminent hazard to public safety [as a result of a] failure to take basic measures to ensure that its drivers are properly rested.” The company also failed to pay penalties resulting from violations of drug and alcohol testing requirements.

“Bus drivers have become the scapegoats for these accidents caused by these sweatshops on wheels,” says Larry Hanley, international president of ATU, which represents workers at Greyhound and other U.S. and Canadian intercity bus companies. “How many more deaths will it take for Congress and Parliament to recognize that overtime provisions must be enacted to ensure intercity bus driver and passenger safety?”

U.S. intercity bus deregulation in the 1980s lead to the establishment of countless small, "fly-by-night" bus operations that have been involved in a growing number of fatal accidents such as the Bronx and Virginia crashes that, alone, killed 19 last year. Deregulation has now spread to Canada and small companies like Mi Joo Tour & Travel are overlooked, exposing drivers, passengers, and other drivers to danger.

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).

“Bus operators in both countries are permitted to overwork and underpay their drivers, which forces them to work until they drop,” says Hanley. “U.S. and Canadian politicians who have failed to regulate the industry to protect drivers and passengers must be held accountable. Until overtime regulations are enacted and enforced we will continue to see carnage on the highways."