Accident sparks bus safety fears

Express buses originating from the Algarve are not abiding by the rules set by the General Directive of Land and Water Transports (DGTTF), says a drivers’ union.

Since the accident two weeks ago on the A49 motorway in Spain when a bus travelling from Faro to Seville collided with a broken down lorry, killing four people, it has been discovered that many bus companies have shortened drivers’ rest times, some by 75 minutes, and added services to maximise profits.

The DGTTF only approves a bus after safety checks have been carried out. It also approves timetables and journey distances with allowances for rest periods.

It has been revealed that some companies have been altering the timetables and journeys after approval has been given.

Festru, the bus driver’s union, has said that it has received complaints from drivers saying that their rest times have been reduced, in order for bus companies to add more services.

The DGTTF gathered 66 timetables, which had allocated rest times for drivers and in nearly every case they had been altered after the approval from the DGTTF had been given. Inspections have since been launched.

Drivers should, by law, only drive for a maximum of four-and-a-half hours before taking a break and each rest time has been set at a minimum of 45 minutes.

This has not been taking place, and the DGTTF has found some journeys have been added without approval.

Some bus companies have told drivers never to show the transit brigade the journey log books and advised them to pay the fine for not carrying the logs on board because it is four or five times less than a fine for ignoring the legal rest times.

Festru said that bus drivers are worried that their livelihoods are at stake because they could face a two year driving ban if they are unable to produce the travel logs.

The DGTTF has been heavily criticised in the last week for its lack of regular inspections of bus companies. It has promised that tighter controls will be implemented in the future.