Union seeks more than just shutdown of 52 bad bus firms

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WASHINGTON - The government's Dec. 12 shutdown of 52 intercity and tour bus companies for unsafe conditions and unsafe driving is welcome, but does not solve the basic industry ills that lead to those problems, Amalgamated Transit Union President Larry Hanley says.

That's because intercity bus firms are exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act, the law that orders firms to pay workers a minimum wage and overtime. That allows bus firms to overwork and underpay their drivers, leading to fatal crashes caused by fatigue, Hanley adds.  The firms don't maintain their buses, either, federal data show. 

"While this 'Quick Strike' operation" against the offending bus firms "is critically important, any serious proposal to clean up the discount bus industry must, unequivocally, address driver fatigue," Hanley says. His union represents workers at Greyhound and other intercity bus companies, along with city bus and subway workers.

Those workers, under union contracts, don't suffer fatigue, and get decent wages so they - unlike the intercity and tour bus drivers - don't have to take second jobs to make ends meet. "Until Congress deals with bus driver fatigue we will continue to see carnage on the highways," Hanley explained. Citing federal figures, ATU notes driver fatigue produces 36 percent of U.S. motor coach fatalities.

Hundreds of the "fly-by-night" bus firms - Chinatown expresses and the like - "get away with paying their bus 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," says Hanley. "Unsuspecting customers get on these buses and disaster can strike."

ATU has campaigned for regulation of the bus firms, and legislation to mandate decent pay and overtime. The firms sprang up after bus deregulation in 1980.  Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., introduced a bill with those mandates, but it's gone nowhere.

Those were the bus firms the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates buses, shuttered on Dec. 10, the culmination of an 8-month investigation of more than 250 intercity and tour bus firms, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said.

"Bus travel is increasingly popular because it is a convenient, inexpensive option for students, groups and families," Foxx said in a statement. "But it must also be safe. Through Operation Quick Strike and our regular enforcement, we're shutting down companies that put passengers at risk and educating the public on safe motor coach travel." Besides shutting 52 firms, FMCSA pulled 340 unsafe buses off the road, out of 1,300 inspected. It's targeting another 240 bus firms for follow-up probes. Riders can check a firm's record through a mobile phone app (application), SaferBus.

Photo: Federal regulators shut down 52 bus companies nationwide in a safety crackdown that started in April. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officials acknowledged the investigations were partly prompted by a February bus crash near San Bernardino, pictured above, that killed eight people. Nick Ut/AP

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  • I am a freelance bus driver. I often work in Chinatown for those bus companies. Right now the rate for a day job (meaning I will be able to sleep in my own bed at the end of the day) is $180. A day job by federal law cannot exceed 10 hours of driving. Overnight jobs are 200 to 220, company pays for hotel room. Short jobs like airport transfers or are at least 80 and can be done in under 2 hours unless there's traffic. NYC to the casinos in Connecticut or Pennsylvania are 125 plus tips, usually a total just shy of 200, more than 200 if you have a full bus.
    Also, rarely does a company its self in jeopardy of being shut down and/or put it's entire operation at risk just to cover one shift with a driver who may have had insufficient rest, but I have seen it done by both companies in and out of Chinatown.
    The only difference with Chinatown companies is they are exceeding greyhound miles (per bus, obviously not as a whole) and the more exposure you have the more liability you will have. It's also not fair to say that all of Chinatown doesn't maintain their buses because of 1 or 2 companies. It should also be kept in mind that Chinatown buses are inspected by the DOT about 7 times more often than other companies and the DOT hands out violations even for something like a dirty bathroom. It should also be noted that the main accident cited as the proof Chinatown buses are so unsafe is the worldwide tours accident in the Bronx that killed 15 people. Worldwide was owned by a Russian, the bus was driven by an African American, and the company was out of Brooklyn. The only thing related to Chinatown was one of the drop off points.
    Ultimately though, it's up to the driver. If they're tired they should stop the bus.

    Posted by Phillip , 12/27/2013 11:31am (9 months ago)

  • I wouldn't expect any else .......

    Capitalism kills, plain and simple....

    Posted by Gabe Falsetta, 12/17/2013 3:35pm (9 months ago)

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