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FMCSA Should Close the Bus Driver Loophole, Raise the Bar on Motor Carrier Safety

By Admin

Ms. Shannon L. Watson
Senior Advisor to the Associate Administrator for Policy
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration
US Department of Transportation
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

RE:     Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee Notice of Meeting
           Docket No. FMCSA-2006-26367

Dear Ms. Watson:

On behalf of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), we submit the three topics identified below for consideration by the Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC) in the above captioned proceeding. By way of background, TTD consists of 32 transportation unions including those that represent over-the-road, charter and school bus drivers who have a vested interest in MCSAC’s work.

TTD appreciates MCSAC’s initiative to identify motor carrier safety topics the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) should consider as the government begins work on MAP-21 reauthorization legislation. As part of the meeting to identify these issues, we believe MCSAC should discuss and ultimately support the following topics:

Closing the Bus Driver Loophole in the Fair Labor Standards Act
Unlike 85 percent of American workers, intercity bus drivers are exempt from the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), meaning they are denied time and one-half pay for time worked in excess of 40 hours during a week.

The labor standards found in this industry, at least partially a byproduct of the FLSA loophole, are reportedly forcing drivers to work up 100 hours a week to make a living. This exemption incentivizes unsafe bus operations when drivers are forced to work grueling hours or to hold second jobs during their alleged rest periods to make ends meet. These conditions force drivers to operate motorcoaches while fatigued, the culprit behind 36 percent of bus crash fatalities according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Until this loophole is closed, bus drivers will continue to work excessive hours and operate motorcoaches while fatigued, putting the traveling public at risk.

Increasing FMCSA’s Budget to Bolster Enforcement Efforts
Transportation labor applauds this Administration’s efforts to improve bus safety inspections. In recent years, FMCSA has carried out ‘strike force’ operations designed to remove unsafe operators from our roadways. These sting-like tactics have proven effective, as FMCSA issued out of service orders to 25 bus companies in the first eight months of 2013 alone, averaging nearly one order every week. In addition, the agency recently promulgated a final rule to implement its authority to revoke or suspend operating authorities of motor carriers that have or try to conceal a history of safety violations.

We support these and FMCSA’s other efforts to remove dangerous operators from the roadways, and we believe more resources should be devoted to this cause. Accordingly, we encourage MCSAC to consider the benefits of increasing FMCSA’s enforcement budget so that the agency can continue its strike forces and other tools to keep passengers and drivers safe.

Raising the Bar on New Entrant Safety Standards
As the agency continues its work to close down unsafe operators, it can also help prevent these businesses from obtaining operating authority in the first place. By employing its authority to regulate safety, FMCSA can raise the bar on new entrant requirements in order to deter and prevent bad actors and companies incapable of providing safe services from entering the marketplace. Doing so would not only alleviate some of the burden on FMCSA to remove these bad actors, but also improve the safety of passengers and other motorists.

As the expiration date of MAP-21 quickly approaches, Congress has the tall task of addressing numerous pressing issues affecting our transportation system. We appreciate MCSAC’s efforts to identify important motor carrier safety issues that should be considered with reauthorizing legislation, and we hope the Committee will take our suggestions into consideration.

Edward Wytkind

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