This is a guest post from a long-time bus driver in London on ever increasing demands which many now claim is compromising safety.
Fatigue, what does it mean? I mean, everybody gets tired after a day at work don’t they?
Fatigue is different from tiredness. As a bus driver in London we of course are expected to work shifts. A variation of shifts covering early starts, middle of day and late, night time finishes.
Due to Transport For London’s continued squeeze on the bus companies to eek out as much money from them in Performance Fines and private bus companies obvious need to turn a profit, more and more demands are being placed on the Bus Driver.
Here’s one example; if a Controller curtails a bus early due to late running so that the bus driver can finish on time for their meal break or to go home Tfl will now fine that bus company for doing so, they call it Unjustifiable Loss of Mileage.
TfL do not care if that driver is at the end of a long tiring day, or that perhaps that driver has a long commute home and is at work only 10 hours later. Or
perhaps that driver has a further 5 1⁄2 hours driving on his 2nd spell to complete and needs a proper rest to do so.
Life as a London Bus Driver has become tough, it’s exhausting. When
you board a bus you most likely don’t even consider if your driver is fit to drive;, I bet you think differently when boarding a plane. If I told you that it’s common for bus drivers to be at work between 60 and 70 hours between days off, and for many drivers that will increase as many are forced to work their days off due to low wages now being paid across the capital, would you think that’s excessive?
“But you just sit behind a steering wheel all day” is something that’s thrown at us. Well ask anybody who has been employed as a bus driver and they will tell you it’s not as simple as that.
We have so much responsibility, passengers, fares, regulations, traffic, I could go on. The stress can be overwhelming at times. So many of my colleagues have had lengthy spells off work with stress and anxiety. So many are suffering from poor health with diabetes commonplace.
And fatigue, well you only have to speak to any driver and they will tell you how it’s a constant struggle, a lack of of a home/work life balance takes it toll on family life.
When we talk to our managers it falls on deaf ears, not because they don’t care, in fact I’ve not once had a manager disagree that the hours are excessive, but just that they are powerless to change anything.
It’s the accountant and shareholders that take precedent. After all it’s a business and their aim is ultimately to make money. Is this morally right, to have a safety critical industry sourced out to the lowest bidder?
How can that lead to a safety conscious environment?
On 9 November 2016, a tram operated by Tramlink, a light rail tram system serving
Croydon and surrounding areas in South London, England, derailed and overturned
on a sharp bend approaching a junction. There were seven fatalities with 62 other
people injured; nineteen of them sustained serious injuries.
This horrific incident occurred due to a fatigued driver. A report shown there was a negligible attitude towards fatigue amongst drivers. Now as a result a 35 hour week is being introduced. Yet Bus Drivers, suffering from the same fatigue, excessive long hours and irregular shift patterns are being ignored by TfL and the BusCos.
Can somebody please explain the difference between the roll of a Train, Tube, Tram and a Bus Driver? Most would argue as a Bus Driver there’s more to have to focus on. Tfl are spending huge amounts of money on introducing technology to fix the problem, GPS Speed Limits, lasers in the eyes to test for micro sleeps, automatic braking, and I welcome that, maybe not the lasers, but any tech that can help then it can be a positive, but it will all count for nothing if fatigue isn’t
Tfl need to reduce a Bus Drivers working week to 35 Hours, in line with Tram and train drivers. We were once described by our Mayor as the bloodline of London, well right now we are on the verge of a massive hemorrhage.