VER a hundred Unite bus drivers and their supporters held a lively rally on Thursday morning outside London’s City Hall demanding action from Transport for London (TfL) to tackle fatigue among London bus drivers.
At the rally, Unite regional officer John Murphy said to loud cheers from the crowd: ‘The report by Loughborough University has produced facts that lack of recovery time between poorly scheduled shifts and long shifts without rest breaks are all major factors causing fatigue.
‘The time for talking has finished, it’s time for action.
‘We will make changes to every schedule in London and if the operators won’t talk to us by next March there will be no buses on the road.’
He continued: ‘We had to lobby the Mayor’s office hard to get this report.
‘We need to have our work properly surveyed and routes independently verified – no more blaming the bus driver.
‘Either they make peace with us or make war.’
Bus workers speaking at the rally included Joanne Harris from Putney garage who said: ‘We are not going to take this any more, it’s got to change.
‘Perhaps we do need a London-wide bus strike to make them wake up.’
Hashi Jama from Greenford garage said TfL is hiding behind the employers.
‘Increasing our time on duty is causing fatigue.
‘Every London bus route’s speed limit has been cut but the schedule time is the same.
‘I work seven days a week, and never finish on time. Buses should be run as a public service.’
Joe Welch, senior shop steward at Tower Transit said: ‘We have to have zero-fatigue management.
‘People in the bus industry retire and are dead within months.’
Bus driver Steve O’Rourke had the crowd in stitches when he recounted his treatment by the management.
He said: ‘I was given a test and was complimented on my driving skills, professional manner, how I had parked the bus and how I had dealt with passengers on the journey. The only problem was, why wasn’t I smiling?
‘I have worked as a bus driver for 34 years with a good record and I was pulled up by a manager the other day and told that I had passed someone at a bus stop without stopping and he pulled out his little red book, and I said that was written by a bunch of idiots who work in an office who have never driven a bus.
‘Stress is a growing problem and with fatigue you do make mistakes.
‘We are asked to check with the monitor above our heads but we could run someone over when we are looking at it.’
Jim Kelly, Unite chair of the taxi drivers, told the rally: ‘In the nine years Boris Johnson was London Mayor he did not meet a single union leader. He has total contempt for working people.
‘There is a simple solution to driver fatigue – better wages, less overtime, better rosters and proper breaks.
‘We work to live not live to work.’
Bus driver Steve Elwood from Barking garage said: ‘The operators are not going to implement this report; we need TfL to do it.’
East London Stagecoach bus driver Louise Cocker told the rally: ‘After a ten hour shift we are exhausted.
‘We have had enough, we want our working lives better and improved, things have to change.’
After the rally News Line spoke to some of the drivers.
Lamont Jackson from Holloway garage said: ‘The only way this will happen is if we hit the companies in their pocket.
‘We want the public to come out with us.’
From Merton bus garage, Ricardo Barras was adamant: ‘What we need is a publicly owned bus service.’
Alan Hodge from Wimbledon garage in Plough Lane told News Line: ‘We want an end to the Q2 contracts which set up the tenders. They just don’t work.
‘Everything is timed and the phrase “service requirement” is used to our detriment because we don’t have time for decent breaks.
‘Routes have been cut and joined up to make long routes which can be two hours long and a driver can end up with getting a five minute break!
‘At the end of the route we have to check over the bus, eat, go to the toilet; there is no proper recovery time.
‘I am also campaigning for a proper trauma facility for those involved in serious accidents which we do not have, like that which is available to tube drivers.’
The issue of break time was a big factor in the Loughborough University research which stated:
‘Two of the strongest predictors of having to fight sleepiness were specifically related to break times at work. Drivers who reported having insufficient time to eat were twice as likely (100% more likely) to have to fight sleepiness than those who reported having sufficient time.
‘Whilst drivers who reported having insufficient time to rest during their break were more than twice as likely (170% more likely) to have to fight sleepiness than those who reported having sufficient time.
‘Another significant predictor related to breaks at work was having somewhere to sit. Drivers who were not provided with somewhere to sit during their breaks were 65% more likely to have to fight sleepiness than those who reported having access to somewhere to sit.’
The Loughborough University findings from the literature and from the research conducted in this body of work indicated that stress is a major part of the job of a bus driver, occurs frequently, and is a risk factor for fighting sleepiness. Implementing solutions aimed at reducing stress, particularly on road, could potentially have a large impact on drivers and potentially lead to reductions in fatigue. Solutions to reduce stress would be linked to education, working conditions, and scheduling
The cost of addressing health to potentially mitigate fatigue would require additional operator and employee time, and potentially additional facilities, equipment, training, and publicity. It would also depend on what level each of the solutions is addressed, and therefore the costs may vary.
The effort required to achieve the full potential to reduce driver fatigue is again dependent on the solutions that are implemented. Supporting drivers and encouraging engagement with new policies relating to health and wellbeing, eating, stress, and screening would take effort in order to be effective, however this again requires motivation from individual drivers to achieve possible results.
There is also a shared responsibility component in order to potentially achieve a reduction in driver fatigue, with operators and TfL reviewing and implementing potential health solutions, and drivers taking responsibility for their health.
Five themes emerged from the research, (education, working conditions, schedules, open culture, and health) with respective solutions fitting within these themes.
The proposed solutions were informed from the literature review and the five research tasks conducted as part of this body of work, and only those solutions with potential for reducing driver fatigue have been included in the report. Several of the solutions and overall themes overlap or complement each other, supporting the notion of a holistic approach, encompassing or addressing aspects of each of the themes, to provide the most benefit in terms of reducing fatigue.
The study, published on Thursday, provides more information for the industry to act and achieve the ambition of no deaths or serious injuries on London’s roads.
The project saw the research team use a variety of methods, including group discussions with drivers and discussions with managers, to try and understand fatigue and sleepiness for London bus drivers.
They surveyed drivers and found that one in five of the drivers who responded reported having fatigue-related issues more than once a week while driving.
The study is also the first in the world to use applied on-road data collection methods for assessing drivers’ fatigue and sleepiness while they are driving in-service buses.