Go Bus accused of endangering passenger safety by breaching drive-time limit

A bus driver at the wheel of a bus.
A bus driver at the wheel of a bus. Photo credit: File

A south Auckland bus operator is being accused of failing to keep its staff and passengers safe.

GPS analysis alleges Go Bus drivers consistently exceed the five-and-a-half hour legal drive time limit before being able to take a break.

First Union researcher Joe Hendren says the organisation was initially knocked back when drivers started voicing their concerns.

"We told the company, they were quite dismissive of it," he says.

"We regard this as a serious public safety issue. This not only affects bus drivers but it affects everyone else who uses the road."

The union’s claims have also been dismissed by the Transport Agency and Auckland Transport.

Each instance of breaching the drive time limits can result in a fine of up to $25,000.

Drivers also run the risk of losing their licence.

Mr Hendren says Auckland Transport GPS data proves drivers repeatedly have to break the law.

Analysis obtained by Newshub shows the legal drive time limit has breached at least 27 separate times over a two-month period.

A bus driver who does not want to be named says complaints about fatigue are falling on deaf ears.

"Our biggest fear is for the safety of the public, our passengers," she says.

"We try our best, we have spoken to them about this, but [Go Bus] won’t care because they only need their money."

The driver says Auckland’s busy traffic, inadequate parking at rest stops and pressure to make up for lost time is forcing her colleagues to break the legal limits.

First Union plans to retake its case to the Transport Agency once it has finished collating the GPS results.

However, Auckland Transport says the claims are unsubstantiated due to gaps in the data.

Drivers are given a four-minute buffer zone at the end of each run where they can either take a break, or make up for lost time when running late.

An Auckland Transport spokesperson says there’s no way of confirming whether operators were driving or taking breaks during their runs.

Go Bus chief operating officer Nigel Piper says First Union's claims are factually incorrect and unfounded.

"The data provided from Auckland Transport came with a warning that it was not to be relied upon, yet the union choose to analyse it anyway," he says.

"Routes are constantly monitored and adjusted to accommodate potential over runs.

"In such cases a relief driver is dispatched immediately to intercept the trip. If a pattern of lateness emerges then we will fix the duty."

The Land Transport Rule: Work Time and Logbooks 2007 defines a rest break as "at least 30 minutes in duration; and is not spent in a moving vehicle associated with work".

The Transport Agency says it would be happy to discuss the situation when further evidence is made available.

Mr Hendren believes the issue is affecting drivers in routes right across Auckland.

"For us it is more important that Auckland Transport, Go Bus, the Transport Agency acknowledge there are cases of drivers going over the five and a half hour limit, rather than arguing over specific instances," he says.

"Our aim is to obtain changes to improve the working conditions of our drivers and the safety of everyone on the road."

Newshub.

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