There are many times when groups need to reach far away destinations in the least amount of time possible. It then becomes necessary for their transportation provider to drive through the night. At Progressive Travel our company philosophy is to provide two drivers for each motorcoach that is involved in this type of passenger movement. The reason for this philosophy is very simple: SAFETY.
We feel it is not reasonable to expect a driver to operate a motorcoach for a ten-hour stretch (the federal limit for driving) through the course of an evening without experiencing some level of fatigue. It is a well know fact, documented with various studies, that the human body has circadian rhythms and there are certain times of the day and night that cause the driver to become more fatigued during those times. Nighttime driving certainly qualifies as one of those times. The only safe way for a company to provide transportation for a group that wants to travel through the night is to provide two drivers. The two drivers will take turns driving in four or five hour shifts – which is recommended by the federal government. The driver who is resting must be in a legal sleeper berth. Federal law requires the sleeper berth to meet all requirements in order for it to be legal. Failure to meet these requirements means that the sleeper berth is not legal and therefore cannot be used.
In addition to these federal requirements there are common sense guidelines that responsible motorcoach operators should also use. The sleeper berths that we are using in all of our motorcoaches either isolate the driver entirely from the group or the driver literally is “walled off” from the passengers. The pictures below show the two types of sleeper berths that we use. The isolated sleeper berth allows the driver to access the sleeper berth through an access door from the center stairwell. The driver is completely isolated from the group. The interior of the sleeper berth is carpeted, lighted and has it’s own air conditioning system. The most important feature is an intercom phone that allows the driver who is in the sleeper berth to communicate with the driver who is driving. Another key safety feature of the isolated sleeper berth is that because it is separated from the main passenger cabin there is almost no noise from passengers. Thus it is easier for the driver to rest.
The other type of sleeper berths we use are passenger cabin sleeper berths. Seats are removed from the interior of the coach and the sleeper berth is installed just in front of the rear restroom. The sleeper berth is constructed of a plywood shell that is carpeted with fabric to match the interior of the coach that it is in. The interior of the sleeper berth is insulated, soundproofed and then carpeted on the inside with a dark fabric. The exterior window next to the sleeper berth is covered with a thick, black fabric so very little light can pass through. We go to great extremes to create an environment that is quiet for the driver who is in the sleeper berth.
Many of our competitors choose to run relays with their drivers. That means the first driver drives ten hours and then the trip is continued with another driver. The first driver leaves the group and the second driver continues on. This “relay” continues with drivers until the destination is reached. There are several concerns with this method. The first concern is that if the driver becomes fatigued during their ten hours of driving there is no relief available from a co-driver because there is no co-driver. The single greatest cause of accidents with commercial vehicles is fatigue. Therefore it follows that when driving through the night every effort should be made to avoid situations that can be dangerous. Driving while fatigued is dangerous. The other serious concern with running relays is if a driver should become ill. There is no one to relieve the driver so that individual must continue – whether they are fully capable or not. There are always pressures put on the driver when groups are traveling through the night. So if the driver is not well there will be pressure on the driver to continue on whether they are fit to or not.
Many motorcoach companies build their sleeper berths into the interior of their coaches using no methods to separate the sleeper berth from the passengers. That means when the seats are removed a bed is put in the place of the seats and nothing else is done. In addition to having no privacy the relief driver who is suppose to be sleeping is subjected to every noise in the motorcoach. Think of loud voices, movies or music being played and other distractions. It is not possible for someone to get sound, restful sleep in those conditions. So those types of poorly constructed sleeper berths are actually endangering the lives of everyone on board the motorcoach. While these may be legal in terms of meeting the federal requirements they simply are not safe.
Detailed Information on the Sleeper Berth
Photo to the left shows the last three rows of seats on the door side of the motorcoach. The restroom, located at the back of the motorcoach is visible behind the last set of seats.
This photo shows the last three rows of seats removed. The small gray box on top of the heat register just in front of the restroom is one of the 110 volt outlets that are installed throughout the coach. Notice the dark gray intercom phone located on the front exterior wall of the restroom. Federal law requires that the driver inside the sleeper berth must have a way of communicating with the driver who is driving. This intercom phone is hardwired to another phone located next to the driver seat, therefore meeting federal requirements.
In this picture the wood and metal frame for the bed has been installed where the seats were. Notice the black cloth straps on top of the wood framework. These are nylon safety belts. Federal law requires that safety restraints be available to the driver who is sleeping so that in the event of an accident the driver will not be ejected from the sleeper berth.
This photo shows the mattress installed on the bed frame. Again-notice the safety belts on the mattress.
In this photo the front and back walls of the sleeper berth have been installed. The windows have also been covered with thick, black speaker cloth so even during daylight hours the driver who is in the sleeper berth will be able to get proper rest in darkened environment.
This picture depicts the back half of the sidewall in place. Only the entrance door remains to be installed.
The sleeper berth is complete!
Here are some final thoughts about our sleeper berths. We are frequently asked the question: “Why do you install the sleeper berth in the rear of the motorcoach? Isn’t it noisier back there with all the students?” There are really two major reasons why the sleeper berth is in back. The main reason is that the driver in the sleeper berth is safer in the back of the coach than in front. In a very, very serious head-on collision the driver as well as all the passengers in the front seats could be seriously injured. Therefore, the relief driver is safer to be away from the front of the coach. And in the event of a rear-end collision, because the sleeper berth is nearly five feet from the rear of the motorcoach it would take a large vehicle traveling at an extremely high rate of speed to impact the motorcoach hard enough to seriously injure the driver in the sleeper berth.
“What about the noise in the back of the motorcoach? Are the students louder in back?” We get asked this question frequently. Normally the answer would be yes – they are louder in back. But in all of our motorcoaches we have the Individual Entertainment Package*. Therefore the entire interior of the motorcoach is much quieter than a typical coach. So the driver in the sleeper can rest peacefully because the interior of the coach is quiet – even in the back of the coach.