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On the Road, Discount Bus Drivers are Pushed to the Limit

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Today’s New York Times has an unsettling but not very surprising piece on the unsafe conditions and lack of regulation plaguing the interstate bus industry. In the aftermath of the deadly accident in the Bronx, the issue has become a national priority (it remains to be seen for how long).  A few excerpts:

Drivers, tour operators and watchdog groups say that many employees receive no benefits, work long hours and are poorly compensated. Federal rules that restrict drivers’ hours are only sporadically enforced, and some drivers say they have felt pressure to take long-haul trips that often stretch beyond the legal limit…

At Foxwoods on Monday, a driver for World Wide Travel was preparing for a nap in his bus’s front passenger row. The driver had arranged a blanket and several small pillows atop a knapsack; later, he opened an overhead compartment to reveal a stash of blankets. “You see my bed?” he said with a smile. The man, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because his company had instructed drivers not to talk to the news media, said he planned to sleep for 90 minutes. He still had five hours until he had to start his return trip to Flushing, Queens. He had already used a casino-issued meal coupon to buy a chicken-and-rice dinner…

Federal law is nearly silent on qualifications for the job: for the most part, anyone with a state-issued commercial driver’s license is eligible. Carriers are expected to obtain medical certificates from their drivers and occasionally test for drug and alcohol use; a spokesman for the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the industry’s regulator, said that the responsibility for administering those tests fell to the business, not the state, and that violators could face fines.

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