School bus summit shines spotlight on safety

December 2, 2013

AFL-CIO logo WASHINGTON – The threat of unscrupulous school bus contractors transporting our nation’s students and the working conditions of drivers are among the topics featured at today’s school bus summit hosted by the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO.

“During this summit we will drill down on the challenges faced by school bus drivers in a fast-changing industry that we believe needs greater scrutiny from federal and state regulators,” said TTD President Edward Wytkind. “To push this dialogue forward we will discuss reforms and better practices needed to protect the 25 million students our members transport daily. We are especially pleased that Anne Ferro, Administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), will join us.”

The summit, TTD’s second gathering of this kind in three years, will bring together national and local bus union leaders and activists, experts and federal regulators.

“We are grateful for the dedicated men and women who drive our kids to and from school and extracurricular events safely every day,” said Wytkind. “But we owe them more than our thanks – we must address their working conditions, improve oversight of private contractors and make sure we are providing them the support they need to maintain the highest safety standards possible.”

“We at FMCSA share a deep commitment to high safety standards for school bus drivers who keep our most precious cargo – our children – safe as they travel to and from school,” said Administrator Ferro. “It’s critical that everyone works together to make our highways and roads continually safer, and for the public do its part by driving safely in the vicinity of school buses.”

The agenda for today’s second summit will address four core issues:

  • Privatization: Unscrupulous private contractors often cut all the wrong corners, which undermines workers’ wages and benefits and subjects school children to substandard, poorly regulated school bus operations.
  • Driver Training to Keep Buses Safe: From intruders who try to board buses to students bullying each other, violence can erupt on buses. Drivers, who face physical attacks, need to be trained to respond to these situations while maintaining safe operation of their vehicles.
  • Bus Capacity: When drivers transport more students than a bus can reasonably fit, cramped space can jeopardize student safety if an accident or behavior outburst occurs.
  • Sleep Apnea: Any future regulations that create additional employment requirements must treat school drivers fairly.

“We will leave this summit with a better understanding of the challenges faced by America’s school bus drivers and their passengers and with a renewed commitment and strategy to make these operations safer,” Wytkind said.