While Greyhound is vocal about saying that safety is a priority for them, it has recently come to light that those rules are not quite as enforced as one might believe. In fact, they are better described as “guidelines,” with the drivers being primarily responsible for following them with little to no enforcement from the bus company giant.
There is no better illustration of the danger this poses than a October 2013 bus crash.
2013 October Greyhound Accident
At around 1:33 a.m. in the morning on October 9, 2013, a Greyhound bus ran into the back of a big rig on I-80 in Pennsylvania; it had been making the trek to Cleveland from New York at the time. The crash had such a large impact that one passenger was tossed onto the road and the bus’ wheels were lifted off of the ground.
Many of the passengers claim that the bus driver had been asleep at the wheel at the time of the incident—a statement corroborated by another driver who claims they saw the bus swerving and remembers thinking “They are going to kill somebody.” Court documents reveal that driver was not the only one with concerns. Passengers claim the bus had been fishtailing long before the incident. Others say they remember the bus driver having red eyes back in New York.
One man claims they saw the driver dozing.
While both Greyhound and the driver claim that fatigue did not factor into the accident, it was discovered that she had driven 178 miles without taking a break. The driver claims she doesn’t remember the moment of impact.
One passenger on the bus lost his leg in the accident and sued the company. The jury found that Greyhound demonstrated “reckless indifference to the safety” of both passengers and drivers. The company was faulted for its contradictory language in rules and training and for their failure to enforce safety rules.
The passenger was awarded $23 million, as well as $4 million in punitive damages.
About Greyhound’s Rule G-40
CNN reported that Greyhound’s internal documents state that drivers are supposed to mitigate fatigue by:
- Stopping approximately every 150 miles
- Get out of the bus and stretch their muscles
- Perform some quick physical activity
- Check the tires, lugs, and wheels of the bus
While the rules are well-intentioned, they are not enforced by the company. In fact, there are several routes where there are no required stops for more than 150 miles—which creates a situation where it is on the driver to perform such safety stops. According to the attorney who is representing several passengers injured in that 2013 accident, "They don't enforce their 150 miles safety rule because it costs them money." He went on to state, "I think Greyhound was more at fault for this crash than the driver who fell asleep behind the wheel because they allowed a dangerous driver to drive.”
Understanding the Danger of Driver Fatigue
Tired drivers behind the wheel is a well-documented danger when it comes to commercial accidents. In fact, a 2012 government study found that nearly 40% of passenger bus crashes were caused by driver fatigue. The NHTSA has also stated that 5 of the 184 fatal passenger bus crashes from 2010 to 2014 were caused by driver fatigue.
Deborah Hersman, former chairwoman of the NTSB (now president and CEO of the National Safety Council), said one issue the NTSB was concerned with during her tenure was overnight motor coach crashes. "The problem is that there's a tremendous risk, because the driver has to stay awake when there's tremendous pressure biologically to sleep," she said.
Such risk is elevated between the hours of 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. When combined with studies showing that overnight workers suffer from less sleep and less quality sleep during the day than workers with more traditional daytime hours, it creates a dangerous scenario for everyone involved. It doesn’t help that driving behind the wheel can become mundane.
While some bus companies have begun to stop offering overnight routes because of this danger, most are private bus charter companies. Large transportation giants like Greyhound still provide them, regardless of the risk that they pose to both bus passengers and other motorists on the road. "I would never pull an all-nighter with my family in the car, knowing what I know about fatigue and night risks, never," said Hersman.