Nightcap aims to raise awareness among parents and schools about a crucial safety issue surrounding school trips abroad.
A European Commission Report has linked driver fatigue in up to 30% of coach crashes, with most of these crashes happening on motorways and during overnight driving.
In an effort to reduce driver fatigue, the Nightcap campaign has written to the UK government and received confirmation from Ministers that tour companies used by schools have a legal duty of care to ensure passenger and driver safety and are duty bound to make sure that the accommodation they book for coach drivers will allow them to rest and sleep properly.
BUSK has learnt that in many cases, tour companies are forcing drivers to share rooms with other drivers. Sometimes drivers turn up at a hotel to find they are required to share a room with someone they have never met before and it could also be someone of a different sex. Could you imagine what would happen if a teacher on one of these trips was told they would be required to share a room with a complete stranger? Do you think they would be happy about this? Do you think they would agree to share? Not likely so why then, is it acceptable to force coach drivers to share a room when it could be argued that they are the most important person on the coach? They have a huge responsibility to their passengers to drive them safely. How can they meet this responsibility if they have not slept adequately? They must be given appropriate single room accommodation in a quiet area of the hotel so they can be properly rested each time they drive children and teachers during the week away. Sharing a room with someone you do not know, or someone who is up and down to the bathroom all night and perhaps snores loudly or talks in their sleep is not conducive to a good nights sleep. If drivers are speaking out, should we not be listenting to them?
What about that long haul 21-hour return journey to the UK, when children will travel though the night and on motorway?
We mentioned earlier that a Report linked up to 30% of coach crashes to driver fatigue. The report also recorded that most of these crashes happen on motorways and during overnight driving. On the last day of the school trip abroad, many drivers report that:
- They are checked out of the hotel in the morning by the teachers. Teachers and pupils then go off on another day of activities.
- Drivers are left to hang around waiting for the party to return but have no facility to rest or sleep during the day ahead of a long haul 21-hour drive shared by two drivers.
- The party leave for the return journey at around 21:00 but drivers are already tired before they begin the journey because they have often been awake from very early morning, have been awake all evening and now must stay awake all through the night.
- They struggle to stay alert on the return journey to the UK.
- Teachers ofen refuse to give up the front seats so that drivers can use these to try and get some sleep while the co-driver drives.
If tour companies continue the practice of forcing drivers to share rooms and not provide a day bed on the last day of the trip, then drivers are going to continue to be tired and we all know that tired drivers are dangerous ones. BUSK will be inviting tour companies to work alongside the Nightcap campaign in the coming months and will keep visitors to the Nightcap web pages updated on progress but in the meantime, if you are a parent reading this, why not ask your child's school if they are going to insist as part of the written contract with a tour company, that drivers will be provided with a single room in a quiet area of the hotel....top floor, end of corridor is perfect! If you are a teacher reading this, then you know what to do!
Moving on to Adventure Activity Holidays
Great and exciting holidays for children and young people. They may camp and rough it to some degree but then, that is part of what the holiday adventure, so if they sleep in a tent, great!
Drivers however, are not on holiday. They are working but at some sites are provided with a tent to sleep in. Why is this a problem? It is very simple. Drivers are professionals, they need a good nights sleep to function properly and drive safely. When they sleep in a tent they:
- Are kept awake into the small hours by excited children talking, laughing because a tent does not block out this noise or the sing songs around the camp fire.
- Are often joined by wildlife during the night such as rats, beavers and other small creatures.
- Are not always provided with a bed or even a sleeping bag.
- Are allocated a tent that is bang in the middle of the main walk-through so a lot get a lot of passing traffic and noise.
At some of these sites teachers are given brick built chalets with en-suite. The same should be provided for drivers.
There are other adventure sites that provide sheds for drivers to sleep in. Teachers are not expected to sleep in these so why is it acceptable for drivers to be use them?
It all comes down to money but, if you are a parent reading this and paying up to or more than £1,000 for the trip you may be surprised to learn that we have estimated that it would add just £10 to the overall cost of the trip for drivers to have a single room with en-suite in a quiet place. We are certain that you will welcome us bringing these matters to your attention because if BUSK did not do this, the tour companies certainly wont! When you look at a tour companies glossy magazine or website, you will hopefully be better informed and get written proof from your child's school that the coach drivers allocated to your child's school trip will be catered for properly and that each time they begin a journey they are wide awake.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS BELOW WERE PROVIDED BY COACH DRIVERS WHO HAD COMPLAINED DIRECTLY TO EITHER THE TOUR COMPANY OR AT THE SITE OR HOTEL UPON ARRIVAL BUT NO ACTION WAS TAKEN TO REMEDY THE CONDITIIONS. MANY DRIVERS TELL US THAT THEY HAVE KNOWN THESE CONDITIONS TO GO BACK FOR MORE THAN 20 YEARS. CLEARLY THERE CAN BE NO EXCUSE FOR THIS AND THE REASON TOUR COMPANIES HAVE GOT AWAY WITH FOR SO LONG IS THAT PARENTS HAVE BEEN BLISSFULLY UNAWARE!
The two pictures below are of a hotel room provided to a coach driver in London.