Safety concerns new bus contracts could increase driver-fatigue

First Aberdeen bus drivers are to stage 11 days of strikes

Safety concerns have been raised over planned changes to contracts for Aberdeen bus drivers.

Lewis Macdonald MSP fears proposed extended hours for First Aberdeen drivers could result in fatigue – and accidents.

He has now written to the firm’s managing director Andrew Jarvis seeking reassurances that any changes to drivers’ contracts won’t put employees, passengers or other road users at risk.

Mr Jarvis said safety was the “firm’s number one priority”.

As reported in yesterday’s Evening Express, drivers voted overwhelmingly to reject a new pay deal, which they say would see them working up to 10 hours a day, with less holiday entitlement and a pay cut.

However, the bus firm said it was expected the average time drivers spent behind the wheel under the changes would be just under eight hours a day.

The bus firm says the changes to drivers’ contracts are aimed at safeguarding services and jobs.

In his letter, Mr Macdonald writes: “Asking bus drivers to drive 10 hours a day must raise concerns about the safety implications for passengers, drivers and other road users alike.

“Long hours must increase the risk of driver fatigue, and that is when mistakes can be made.

“I am therefore calling on management at First Aberdeen to meet to address those concerns before they take the proposed changes any further.”

At the meeting of Unite members who work for First Aberdeen, 98.4% of drivers voted to turn down the offer, setting a course for a strike ballot.

Unite’s Mike Flynn said: “Under this new contract, bus drivers would be pushed to drive more than five hours at a time, which is antiquated and needs addressed.

“Simple things like being unable to get to the toilet and driving for that length of time results in a lot of stress for drivers.

“Ideally, there should be a ‘spread over’ which will mean working for a maximum of eight hours and not working for more than four hours at a time.

“Unite feels that up to 10 hours is far too long to have someone driving.

“It’s unacceptable to have drivers on for that length of time. It also means that drivers have very little family life.

“Our stance is that drivers shouldn’t be forced to drive for more than four hours.

“They are carrying children and the elderly on their buses and you can only drive safely for so long before it becomes a danger.”

First Aberdeen managing director Andrew Jarvis said: “Safety is our number one priority.

“Ten hours is the maximum legal daily driving time that can be carried out under domestic driving hours for bus or lorry drivers, with a maximum individual period of driving of five-and-a-half hours before a break must be taken.

“Subject to discussions and negotiations, it is anticipated that the average time behind the wheel of a bus each day under the revised proposals will be just under eight hours each day, which is slightly more than the current arrangements.

“Some drivers prefer to work four days a week and to achieve the preferred 38 hours a week their days will naturally be longer at around nine-and-a-half working hours each day.”