The past year has been one of tragic accidents in the intercity bus industry. There was a string of fatal bus crashes across the county. These bus accidents have shed light on the issue of driver fatigue and the long hours bus drivers spend behind the wheel.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) was commissioned to comprehensively study the discount bus industry and applicable safety regulations, and the agency recently released its findings.
The Problem of Bus Driver Fatigue
The expanding curbside bus industry provides economical transportation for passengers, but this is sometimes at the expense of safety. Some company policies allow and even encourage drivers to work with little sleep. Many drivers are paid such low wages they need to work long hours, sometimes over 100 a week, to make an adequate income. When they do receive time to rest, the sleeping conditions are sometimes cramped or unsanitary.
Gaps and loopholes in regulations have allowed the discount bus industry to operate largely under the radar. For instance, bus drivers don’t earn overtime pay because intercity bus operators are exempted from Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) overtime rules.
Driver Fatigue a Major Cause of Bus Accidents
The NTSB found “driver fatigue as a contributing factor to fatal motorcoach accidents and has identified driver fatigue as an issue on its Most Wanted List of Safety Improvements.” The report also explained that the industry requires increased oversight and enforcement.
According to the NTSB estimates, 36 percent of motorcoach collision deaths during the past 10 years have been caused by driver fatigue. This makes driver fatigue by far the leading cause of deadly bus accidents. Other causes like inattention and road conditions each make up less than 10 percent.
Congress is also focusing on improving bus safety through regulations addressing the structural integrity of buses and the implementation of other safety technologies. Although such measures may be valuable, they don’t directly address the issue of driver fatigue which appears to be the root cause of most fatal accidents.
Hopefully, the increased attention the issue of bus driver fatigue has received will lead to more effective regulations and enforcement leading to improvements in the industry.