Federal Agency Conducts Bus Safety Hearing In Columbus

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A COTA bus in Columbus, Ohio.(Photo: Gary Brown (Flickr))
A COTA bus in Columbus, Ohio.(Photo: Gary Brown (Flickr))

A federal transportation agency today visited Columbus in a bid to boost safety on commercial buses. A recent study estimates 36 percent of bus crash fatalities during the past decade can be linked to driver fatigue.

A series of fatal bus crashes this spring prompted renewed emphasis on commercial bus safety. Ohio Highway Patrol manager and inspector James Feddern cites tour bus crashes along the east coast.

“There’ve been some major crashes where people have been killed due to driver error, slash fatigue,” Feddern said.

Seventeen people died in those two east crashes. In 2007, five members of a college baseball team died when a bus crashed through a retaining wall in Atlanta, Ga. Driver error was cited as the primary cause.

“Its the charters that are running, you know they start at five o’clock in the morning and they’re running until late at night and drivers aren’t getting proper rest,” he said. “That may be the problem area.”

Tyrone Neal, driver instructor at Greyhound Bus Lines and a representative of the Amalgamated Transit Union, said commercial bus drivers operate under the same safety rules as long-distance truck drivers, ten hours a day on the road, but often their ten-hour driving shift is split into time segments.

“See we may work four hours and go off duty for three hours, then come back to work for four hours, then go off duty and then work another two hours. So technically we can drive ten hours but we can be on duty for 15,” Neal said.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is conducting bus safety hearings in Columbus, New York, Dallas, and Anaheim.