What makes this bus accident in Pennsylvania even more tragic is that it probably didn’t have to happen.
Many passengers aboard the Greyhound believe that the bus driver fell asleep behind the wheel, which resulted in the vehicle crashing into the rear of the tractor-trailer.
That was part of the reason the Pennsylvania jury found that the driver did not exercise the proper care when it came to the safety of her passengers.
At issue is the 150-mile rule, which is a rule Greyhound bus drivers are supposed to follow.
The rule requires Greyhound drivers to rest after 150 miles of driving.
That rest period can include walking, stretching, checking the bus to ensure that there are no safety issues, or just grabbing a cup of coffee and relaxing.
But internal documents acquired in a CNN special investigation related to the Pennsylvania crash found that the rule – which is known inside the company as G-40 – is rarely, if ever enforced.
An information bulletin obtained by CNN reporters read as follows:
“Remember Rule G-40 Stop approximately every 150 miles to check tires and walk around the bus for a safety stop at roadside rests. Use these stops to refresh yourself and stay completely alert by using these short-term alertness management actions.”
The bulletin goes on to suggest that drivers stretch out and enjoy fresh air with some light physical activity to keep their minds alert.
“The problem with the 150-mile rule is what you find with the hours-of-service rules governing commercial truck drivers,” stated Amy Witherite, partner of the Texas law firm Eberstein & Witherite. “Greyhound officials have no real way of enforcing that rule unless they are actually on the bus. So as with commercial truck drivers, you find that many Greyhound drivers simply ignore the 150-mile rule, and report that they complied with the rule, when in fact they continued driving long past the mileage that is considered safe.”
In fact, David Leach, CEO of Greyhound, admitted in a recent deposition that the company has no way of enforcing the 150-mile rule.
Leach said that the company must rely on bus drivers to exercise good judgment, especially when they are feeling fatigued.
“I’m just saying, they’re professional motor coach operators,” Leach said in the deposition. “And so they, they do their job, well, I’m expecting our drivers to stop when they’re supposed to.”
In the Pennsylvania bus crash, accident investigators found that Anderson didn’t take a break, and that she was 178 miles into the trip at the time of the wreck.
“We’ve seen that in big truck accidents, one of the major contributing factors is driver fatigue,” Witherite added. “And it’s really no different with a commercial bus driver. These are people operating heavy, powerful machines that require the most precise safety measures to keep passengers and other motorists from danger. Fatigue is a huge problem in the trucking industry and in the commercial bus industry. Drivers feel pressured to make deliveries and to make arrival times, and as a result, they will ignore their own exhaustion because the fear of failure and the consequences, which could include termination, are more urgent for them.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has studied the issue of fatigue extensively, and found that motor coach drivers are more likely to experience fatigue when they are on overnight routes.
In addition, the very act of driving, which is sedentary and monotonous actually creates a greater need for sleep.
“The problem is that there’s a tremendous risk, because the driver has to stay awake when there’s a tremendous pressure biologically to sleep,” stated Deborah Hersman, former Chairwoman of the NTSB.
That’s why some major bus carriers have stopped offering overnight routes, understanding that compromising passenger and driver safety is not worth the trouble.