PORTLAND - Some TriMet passengers are fed up after a recent Oregonian report showed TriMet drivers are allowed to work until they're exhausted behind the wheel.
The Oregonian reported that some drivers have worked as many as 22 hours in a 24-hour period. The paper found at least 21 cases during a 42-month period in which people reported seeing operators fall asleep at the wheel.
"That's really disturbing, not only as a passenger but pedestrians and other people who have to share the road. It makes it dangerous for everyone," said frequent Northeast Portland rider Noah Heller. Heller decided to do something about it. On Monday he created a petition website demanding change, then hit social media to spread the news. oregoniansforsafetransit.nationbuilder.com
Under the current contract, TriMet drivers can work a maximum 17 hours per service day. But the catch is a service day ends at 1am, with the next service day starting when buses resume running at 3am. So some drivers are swapping shifts, for the overtime, and straddling service days. These drivers are choosing to work up to 22 hours in a 24 hour period.
TriMet's admits it happens.. but it's rare. "A handful of operators choose to work the overtime," said TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetch. When pressed about whether this practice was safe, Fetch responded, "We think its safer if they worked fewer hours."
TriMet said they want a change but the union won't budge in negotiations. "They want to keep the status quo," Fetch added.
"When she says the union is not willing to negotiate, that's not an accurate statement. There's room for discussion on the policies and issues. Safety concerns are a big issue we need to address as well," said Bruce Hansen with the TriMet union.
Heller plans to take the petition to TriMet's meeting on Wednesday.