Last month I wrote about the growing controversy over work rules for Tri-Met bus and train drivers and concerns that public safety could be affected when drivers log excessively long shifts. In January, the union representing Tri-Met’s drivers rejected proposed work rules saying that, as written, they posed a threat to both drivers themselves and the public at large.
According to a report in yesterday’s Oregonian the union and Tri-Met now “have officially signed an agreement requiring bus drivers to take off a minimum number of hours between shifts.” The paper reports that both Tri-Met and the union “promised that the agreement will fix a system that has allowed several drivers to pad their paychecks by working as many as 22 hours in a 24-hour period.” (the link to the Oregonian, below, contains, in turn, a link to the full text of the work agreement)
Until now, as The Oregonian notes, loopholes in the federal government’s system of oversight for drivers and passenger haulers mean that federal rules preventing excessive shifts or hours do not apply to Tri-Met’s bus operators but do apply to the transit system’s train operators. The result was a system that has long had real potential to endanger the drivers themselves, their passengers and cyclists and pedestrians who share the road with Tri-Met’s buses and trains, as a number of tragic Oregon traffic accidents have demonstrated in recent years.
Under the terms of the agreement, as reported by The Oregonian, bus drivers will be required to have at least nine, and in most cases ten or more, hours off between shifts. The newspaper adds that “the agreement will remain in place until a permanent one is hammered out in upcoming contract talks.”
Considering the importance of this issue for all of us who live and work in Greater Portland this is good news. As a Portland traffic accident lawyer it is gratifying to see Tri-Met and the union work together to reach a deal that promises to improve the safety of everyone in our city.