Portland Bus Safety At Issue as Tri-Met Drivers Reject Longer Workday

The union representing Tri-Met workers has rejected proposed work rules that would have allowed bus and other transit drivers in the Portland area to work 14-hour shifts, according to a report published in The Oregonian.

The paper reports that “the union representing operators, mechanics and support staff quickly rejected the plan on Monday, saying it didn’t go far enough to address the growing problem with exhaustion.” The paper quotes a union leader saying “No human being, especially one transporting passengers through city traffic, can safely operate a bus over a 14-hour workday, day-after-day.”
The proposed work rules would “limit” drivers to a 14-hour workday and require at 10 hours off between shifts. According to the paper the proposed work plan would have applied to drivers of both buses and light-rail trains. The paper notes that “the current policy, based on service days, makes it easy for a driver to finagle extra overtime by working marathon runs.”
The question one must ask is why Tri-Met would propose work rules that clearly run the risk of exhausting drivers, particularly after all of the safety concerns that have surrounded its services over the last few years. Oregon wrongful death issues have been raised by the allegedly negligent operation of some Tri-Met vehicles. The paper also notes that Tri-Met management has been pressed in recent months by both federal and state regulators to revise the rules governing transit operators and their working hours.

From the perspective of a Portland wrongful death and personal injury attorney the gist of this debate is a bit surprising. Surely a top priority for any agency that transports passengers ought to be the establishment and promotion of rules that not only ensure the public’s safety but also convey a message of safety to the agency’s customers and to the public at large? We in Portland are rightly admired throughout the nation for our commitment as a community to protecting the environment and promoting a green lifestyle. Making those commitments a reality requires labor and management alike to work together, putting public safety first.

The Oregonian: TriMet Driver Fatigue: Union rejects management proposal for 14-hour workday