Transport for London has announced that from next summer it will require companies that run bus services in the capital to demonstrate that they have “robust systems” in place to prevent drivers becoming fatigued as a condition of securing new contracts.
The transport body has also said it will create a £500,000 fund for bus operators to “initiate a range of pioneering solutions” to the problem of fatigue, which has been highlighted by Unite The Union.
The announcement has been accompanied by publication of research commissioned by TfL which informs the forthcoming changes and also TfL’s wider bus safety programme, which was launched in February 2016.
Among “key measures” listed by TfL are a requirement of operators that “rigorous fatigue risk management systems” are in place and that they review driver rosters “against best practice to reduce he risk of fatigue”.
TfL says it will ensure “that all managers in bus garages have undertaken fatigue training” and, with operators, that driver representatives are “given the opportunity” to be trained in fatigue issues. It also pledges to “foster a more open and honest culture across the industry”.
The research, which was conducted by Loughborough University and the Swedish National road and Transport Research Institute, was asked for by TfL in response to Unite’s campaigning on the issue. Circulating the research in London governance circles, TfL says the study provides new information to “help address the risk of collisions” involving buses and is “the first in the world to assess drivers whilst they behind the wheel and to combine this with detailed sleep diaries”.
A voluntary survey of drivers for the research found that “one in five of those drivers who responded reported having fatigue-related issues more than once a week while driving”. The health and wellbeing of drivers is emphasised, including the provision of adequate welfare facilities to reduce stress, which is found to also reduce fatigue.
The issue of bus driver fatigue has also been raised by several London Assembly Members over time, including Liberal Democrat AM Caroline Pidgeon, who is currently deputy chair of the Assembly transport committee. Deputy Mayor for transport Heidi Alexander said “Unite was entirely right to push for this research an I am pleased that TfL was the first organisation in the world to commission this type of study”.
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