Long-distance bus lobby defends driver scheduling, pay

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The ATU called last week for the Department of Transportation to an exemption to overtime pay rules set by the Fair Labor Standards Act for bus drivers and other sectors where hours of service are set by federal regulators.

But Hart said on Tuesday that the exemption provides protections for passengers because they prevent drivers from working longer hours to earn extra pay.

"Hours of service is done for safety," Hart said. "The reason Congress gave DOT the power [to set driver schedules] is to keep any driver from exceeding the safe number of hours they could operate."

The ATU argued that the absence of the normal that govern overtime for workers also bus companies to underpay their employees.

"The [Department of Transportation] crackdown will take more unsafe bus companies off road, but this loophole in federal law continues to allow unscrupulous operators to get away with paying criminally low wages, forcing drivers to work as much as 100 hours a week to support their families,” ATU President Larry Hanley said in a statement last week. “That is the real reason behind driver fatigue, which is the number one cause of fatal bus accidents on our highways.”

A bill making the changes being sought by the ATU (S. 478) has been introduced by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

The measure was introduced in 2011, but it died in committee during the last Congress. Schumer refiled the bill last month.