The laws on bus driver working hours are putting lives at risk

Bus drivers should not be driving when fatigued

Driver fatigue on our roads is an increasing issue that the government needs to address – bus driver fatigue is no different.

Niche in the national picture or not, it really can be the difference between life and death.

The dangerously long working hours that local bus drivers face are not only putting the drivers themselves at risk but also the passengers and the wider public.

Rowan Fitzgerald – a seven-year-old boy from my constituency – was tragically killed in the Coventry bus crash of 2015.

Long driving hours were one of the key causes of death in this incident, with Midland Red (a subsidiary of Stagecoach) fined £2.3m over breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

In the four weeks between the 11th September and the 2nd October 2015 – the driver in question worked an average of 72 hours per week.

It simply staggers me that this is entirely legal under UK law, as local bus drivers are not subject to the same working hour regulations and long-distance bus drivers.

As you can imagine, Rowan’s family wish for a change in the law to prevent a similar tragedy happening again.

It is imperative that we finally shine a light on some of the dangerous practices around long working hours in bus companies, and it is now time for the government to help change the law to make sure long working hours don’t lead to such tragic consequences again.

The onus is not on passengers, nor is it even on the drivers – it is on the bus companies and government to show leadership on this issue and work together in the interest of public and passenger safety.

At the moment, a local bus driver can work up to 130 hours over two weeks.

My proposal in parliament is to align local drivers’ working hours with long-distance bus and HGV drivers – whereby a driver cannot drive more than 56 hours a week, or more than 90 hours over any two consecutive weeks.

An entirely sensible proposal, and one that should be adopted amongst the chaos in Chris Grayling’s Department for Transport.

Instead of signing off and reversing on post-Brexit ferry contracts that have cost the government and the taxpayer millions – this government should be focused on the real, tangible issue of public safety on public transport.

It is time to legislate in collaboration with unions who support my proposal such as the TUC, RMT and Unite to ensure that another two people aren’t killed the next time a bus driver is asked to work more hours than is safe.

If simple, common sense restraints on working hours were in place, I might not even have had to write this comment piece today. Given the tragic death of my constituent, Rowan, it is a travesty that action is yet to be taken by the government.

Every passenger has the right to feel secure and safe on public transport, while every driver has the right to work free from fatigue and weariness.

Seventeen bus accidents in 2017 reportedly caused by fatigue is simply seventeen too many, and the needless death of Rowan Fitzgerald should tell the government all it needs to know about limiting bus drivers’ working hours: do it, and do it now.

Matt Western is the Labour MP for Warwick and Leamington

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9 Responses to “The laws on bus driver working hours are putting lives at risk”

  1. Dave Roberts

    Please read your own article. “…Midland Red ( a subsidiary of Stagecoach) was fined £2.3 million over breaches of the HSA at Work Act”. Anything else we can help you with?

  2. Patrick Newman

    Who is the “we” Dave?

  3. Patrick Newman

    Good to learn that Warwick and Leamington has a Labour M.P. It is unbelievable that anyone should be able and obliged to work 130 hours over a two week period when the WTD specifies an average of 48 hours and a maximum of 60 hours. Clearly, local bus services are in need of greater regulation, better still take them back under municipal control where subsidies do not enhance the profits of private providers.

  4. Tom Sacold

    Time to re-nationalise public transport.

    But, of course, that would be against the EU Single Market regulations and the ECJ would stop our government in its tracks.

    Another good reason to support a socialist Brexit !!!

  5. Patrick Newman

    Show me the regulation that forbids the renationalisation of bus services. How does Nottingham get away with it? Read this which clearly shows the restriction on municipal bus services is both homegrown and Grayling grown – https://www.newstatesman.com/spotlight/transport/2018/06/municipal-bus-companies-can-public-ownership-be-profitable

  6. Dave Roberts

    The we is sensible people Patrick Newman, I exclude you there for obvious reasons mainly because you come across as a pompous, patronising Trot.

  7. Donna

    I strongly agree to this! The public’s safety is far more important than peoples wages. Cutting down hours to protect the public from tragic accidents like this is a must!!it should of been done a long time ago considering there’s been 17 bus accidents (that we know of) family’s will never be the same why did it have to come to this, Shudnt Be a debate on it a child has lost his life,for a company who was just desperate for drivers and didn’t do there job properly!and a man who was greedy it’s a joke!!!! We want justice for Rowan and Dora ❤️

  8. Stefan Mitrica

    This is happen because of low rate of payments £9-11/h.with max hours allowable to drive.

  9. SHARF

    This is reality and NO one is talking about any issues that affect the Bus Driver the passengers and the Road uses.

    The main problems here no one Government department aware what is going on within transport system specially London buses is called london buses but in real sense is A private foreign transport companies contacted by transport for London .

    This foreign private companies are here to make money huge profit they don’t care of health and safety of the driver passengers or road users.

    If you want to takle this problems I will suggest to involve ministry of transport environment department health and safety executive and media with the help of investigative journalists.

    And you must visit depot and Garages without the knowledge of Bus accompanies.

    And I will suggest again to look into the following issues
    1 the Drivers hours
    2 the shifts
    3 the roters
    4 running time in between destinations and all this points you must find out before any things the reasons am suggesting this points because all bus operators are dodgy they give very tight travelling time to the driver to run from one points to another that is why London Bus Drivers are always in rush the Bus Drivers also are paid cheap hourly in form of wages again rather than salared monthly all in a if you wa a sort put this involve a parties again Adress in parliament thank you

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