The 2008 BUSRide Motorcoach Industry Achievement Award recipient attacks sleep apnea and driver fatigue
By David Hubbard
Ronald Bast stepped up to accept the 2008 BUSRide Motorcoach Industry Achievement Award on behalf of his family’s company, Riteway Bus Service, Richfield, WI. This annual award honors the motorcoach owner-operator who demonstrates excellence and innovation throughout the business.
BUSRide presented this award to Bast during the United Motorcoach Association Vision Awards ceremonies, held this year in Orlando, FL.
Rollie and Pearl Bast established Riteway Bus Service over 50 years ago with four school buses and the desire to provide safe, dependable transportation for school children. The couple called on trustworthy friends to do the driving. Their legacy lives on at Riteway as Ron and his sister Rochelle maintain family values by hiring people they trust, who care deeply about the company and their community.
Ron has chaired the Wisconsin Motorcoach Association and is an active board member. He also finds time to serve his community through a host of civic organizations.
Today, Riteway employs 700 at eight terminals and company offices. Ron works the Germantown terminal and Rochelle oversees the facility in Milwaukee. Ron’s children, Wendy and RJ, are stepping into the business they have known all their lives.
The fleet of 500 Riteway school buses services 25 school districts throughout Wisconsin, while 35 motorcoaches run in the charter and tour division that launched in the 1980s. The company also operates an executive sedan and limousine service and a travel division, as well as the Washington County Commuter Express, which carries passengers into the city from outlying areas.
The choice of Bast and the Riteway operation for the 2008 Achievement Award falls out of his lifelong devotion to community, exemplified significantly through his concern for his employees and his decision to rectify a dangerous condition.
“Our family has always based the Riteway philosophy on a few simple principles,” says Bast. “This company operates in a spirit of can do, an attitude we strive to refresh by being honest; and when someone needs a rope, we throw one out to help.”
In this case, Bast is doing what he can to wake his employees to the dangers of sleep apnea and driver fatigue. BUSRide featured several reports on this malady in 2008, and watched with interest as Bast moved to promote healthier drivers and prevent accidents.
As a partner with Sleep Apnea Solutions, Inc. (SAS), Waukehsa, WI, the two companies have instituted a voluntary and confidential health and safety program to address this exacerbating sleep disorder.
While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Medical Review Board recommends testing and treating all CDL operators for sleep apnea, Riteway is trying to get ahead of the curve as FMCSA medical qualifications begin to impact drivers.
Bast says research conservatively estimates 28 percent of CDL holders are at risk for sleep apnea. People with the untreated disorder do not get the restorative sleep they need, leaving them excessively tired while awake.
He says sleep apnea affects everyone from the driver and passengers on board to the other drivers on the road. However, Bast learned from his employees that drivers typically do not pursue testing for two reasons: it costs too much and they do not want to undertake a sleep study in a lab setting.
“Nonetheless, untreated sleep apnea is dangerous and all too often deadly,” says Bast. “According to statistics, driver fatigue creates a seven times greater risk of commercial drivers being involved in an accident.”
The program SAS put together for Riteway conveniently allows employees to be tested and treated in their own homes on their own schedules at a more reasonable cost.
SAS sleep specialists educate drivers on sleep apnea and perform a brief but comprehensive sleep evaluation prior to completing the home test, which a registered sleep technician scores for review by a board certified sleep physician. Where the results indicate a high likelihood of sleep apnea, SAS and Riteway encourage the driver to start treatment immediately.
The company and the employee share the cost of the testing and treatment.
Bast says safety is always top priority for Riteway, its people and the communities they serve. For its focus and attention to safer operations, the company has earned a top rating for the Department of Defense Standards of Service and Safety Inspection. BR