Most people in this city have ridden the bus at some point or another. For some people, the bus is their main mode of transportation. Because of this, it was jarring to find out that until recently some bus drivers were operating on little to no sleep. Due to TriMet’s long standing hiring freeze, drivers have had the opportunity to snag overtime on a regular basis. Without regulations to stop them, some drivers were working between 18-22 hours each day. A recently retired driver admitted that "exhaustion has become part of the culture, but TriMet can't run that place without drivers who are willing to rack up some big overtime". In addition to the hiring freeze, this is also partially due to a high daily absenteeism rate, which makes extra shifts available for many drivers.
The fatigue-fighting agreement that was reached in early February addressed this issue. The agreement, which requires bus drivers to take 10 hours off in between shifts, was reached after the Oregonian concluded its investigation of TriMet driver fatigue. Rose, the Oregonian reporter, asserts that during the investigation TriMet’s managerial attitudes toward the problem shifted. In August officials made no indication that driver fatigue would be a contract concern. “At the end of November, however, they said new limits on work hours for bus drivers would be a priority in upcoming contract negotiations with the union”. This may have had something to do with the 21 documented incidents of drivers “nodding-off” while operating buses and light rail that the Oregonian managed to dig up. In 2011, ODOT took the initiative by holding TriMet to legal requirements applicable to light rail operators’ weekly hours. These regulations, however, do not apply to bus operators.
The regulations set in the fatigue-fighting agreement are a start, but it seems that they may just be a temporary solution. Until TriMet is in a position that allows them to hire more drivers to fill schedules, some bus drivers will still be working overtime on a regular basis. This rule bending might be preferable to simply cutting service on any given day, but not at the risk of riders’ lives. This issue may only be one on a list of problems caused by TriMet’s financial straits, but safety seems like it should be pretty high on the list.
Thanks to CJ Doxsee for editing this.
Links to Articles:http://www.oregonlive.com/roadreport/index.ssf/2013/02/trimet_driver_fatigue_agency_u.html