Call made for bus driver fatigue to be taken seriously

A call has been made in London for bus driver fatigue to be taken more seriously.

The London Assembly Transport Committee has today called for TfL and bus operators to change the culture around self-reporting and ensure that fatigue is taken seriously, to protect drivers and customers.

The Committee carried out an investigation on the issue of transport safety, speaking with bus safety experts, TfL, Unions and transport safety organisations. It concludes that more work must be done to protect bus drivers from fatigue, with evidence over many years suggesting that fatigue among London bus drivers is a chronic and widespread issue.

Research by Loughborough University and the Swedish National Road and Transport Institute in May 2019 found that one-in-six London bus drivers reported falling asleep at the wheel within the previous year.

During the Committee’s investigation, it heard from Professor Andrew Morris who was involved in the research. Professor Morris told the Committee: “We did find that fatigue was a problem for bus drivers. In fact, we found 21% of drivers are fighting sleep at least three times per week and insufficient sleep before shifts and changing shift patterns.”

The Committee has been told that pressure on bus drivers to meet time schedules adds stress and potentially increases the risk of collisions.

The are targets for nobody to be killed on or by a London bus by 2030 in the Mayor’s Vison Zero goal for London, which sets an overall target of zero deaths and serious injuries on London’s transport network by 2041.

In its ‘Bus, tram and tube safety in London’ report, the Committee suggests TfL and bus operators should change the culture around self-reporting and ensure that fatigue is taken seriously. It says TfL should:

  • Share the lessons learned from its pan-TfL Fatigue Working Group and Oversight Group.
  • Develop an action plan by September 2024 on how it will implement those lessons from trams (and other modes) systematically across bus operators.
  • Commission new research on shift lengths, patterns and rotas, including data on bus drivers’ experiences of investment such as rest facilities and toilets.

The report also suggests The Mayor should commission an Independent Safety Risk Assessment for TfL from a reputable independent authority which would investigate:

  • The role and punctuality incentives in bus contracts, with emphasis on the stressful conditions these incentives might create for bus drivers, including those which cause fatigue.
  • The time pressures that Bus Drivers face.
  • Analysis of Speed Compliance Tool data.

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