Greyhound’s big speed bump

By Sarah Dorchak

A bus ride wouldn’t be complete without some bumps in the road. But over the past several years, Greyhound has experienced more than its share of potholes. Riddled with safety issues, the latest occurred on March 10 when a bus driver realized he had forgotten two passengers at a stop two hours away. Rather than driving the remaining 45 kilometres to the Pimicikamak Cree Nation in Cross Lake, the driver dropped his 16 passengers off into the near-freezing Manitoban wilderness before driving back to pick up the forgotten pair. Passing drivers assisted the abandoned passengers.

Greyhound has since announced they are conducting a “full internal investigation.” Whether this investigation was brought on to cover the company’s butts over a negligence issue now being labeled as racist because many stranded passengers were First Nations, or because Greyhound’s main concern is the safety of passengers remains to be seen. Recent history suggests passenger safety may not be the primary motivation.

In the past several years, there have been five notable attacks on Greyhound passengers in Canada. In March 2000 a man attacked a pregnant woman while on a bus in Ontario. In late December 2000, a man attempted to hijack a bus, causing it to crash and a woman to die. During February 2007 a group of people assaulted a driver, and in December of that year a passenger stabbed another after an argument. Lastly, the grisly murder and decapitation of a passenger occurred in July 2008. In response to these events Greyhound has reevaluated security measures and employee training. It only took five violent assaults over several years for these changes to be deemed necessary.

It seems that Greyhound focuses more on covering their behinds than anything else. After the 2008 murder of Tim McLean there was heavy media pressure on Greyhound to employ new and improved security measures. The corporation fumbled with the pressure, rejecting proposed security measures, claiming that they were “not practical for bus travel.” At least Greyhound delivered what the public wanted within a reasonable time. Five months after McLean’s murder, passengers were subjected to handheld security wands and carry-on baggage searches.

But still public skepticism remains, asking why Greyhound only reacted quickly to the 2008 murder. Was it because of the media pressure? There had been previous security violations that should have caused Greyhound to reassess their policies, but none of that had been done. The major difference between the 2008 murder and the other incidents seems to be the extensive media coverage.

Now after receiving more bad press Greyhound has decided to conduct an internal investigation. The company does this when a neglectful driver gains attention, rather than reevaluating procedures when employees are assaulted and public scrutiny focuses on the culprits. In February 2007 a driver was attacked by a group of people in Lloydminster. The skirmish could have been avoided, if Greyhound had implemented security training for drivers after the December 2000 attempted hijacking. But because the media focused more on the perpetrators of these assaults, Greyhound felt no pressure to reconsider driver safety and training.

Greyhound only acts when the scrutinizing eye of the media and the public is watching. Maybe this is how every corporation acts — only doing what it takes to keep the public and stockholders on their side. Maybe I’m just some commie singin’ the ol’ commie tune. But maybe safety should be a bigger concern than a company’s reputation.