TriMet rider presents petition over 'unsafe overtime practices' - KPTV - FOX 12

TriMet rider presents petition over 'unsafe overtime practices'

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Noah Heller Noah Heller

A Portland man who relies on public transportation wants to see changes made to the way TriMet does business.

Noah Heller presented a petition at TriMet's board meeting Wednesday seeking to correct what he calls unsafe overtime practices.

An Oregonian story found at least 21 cases over a 3 1/3-year period involving TriMet operators falling asleep at the wheel.

The Oregonian reported some operators logged as many as 22 hours on the job in a 24-hour period by circumventing regulations about maximum time allowed at work.

"It's just completely unacceptable for the safety of myself, for bus drivers, for pedestrians and for other folks who share the road," Heller said Wednesday.

TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane released a memo following the Oregonian's report calling for an internal audit on the matter.

He said the issue has been on the list of things to work through with the union, but it remains undone.

McFarlane said he has asked the organization's contract negotiations team to relaunch the effort, adding, "But I tell you in any case it will not fall off my list as we negotiate or arbitrate the next contract."

That's not necessarily good enough for riders like Heller.

"We can't accept TriMet blaming the unions and the unions blaming TriMet," he said. "We need action from the state."

That's why his online petition is aimed right at Gov. John Kitzhaber.

The online petition addressed to Kitzhaber had 189 signatures by Wednesday afternoon. It reads: "Please publicly proclaim that if the union and the TriMet board of directors (appointed by you) do not agree to common sense reforms that prioritize public safety during the current contract negotiations, you will ask the legislature to pass new rules limiting work hours for TriMet drivers by the end of the upcoming legislative session."

"Safety shouldn't be up for grabs and it shouldn't be negotiable," Heller said.

TriMet's safety and security executive is creating a "fatigue management program" that looks comprehensively at all issues that can contribute to fatigue including hours of service, report time, training, medical issues and even how an operator spends their personal time before work.

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