Our response to The Oregonian “TriMet overtime” article

Shelly Lomax is TriMet’s Executive Director of Operations.

The Oregonian has an article they call “TriMet overtime: ‘Exhaustion has become part of the culture’ at transit agency.” We wanted to take this opportunity to provide some further information and to assure you that we have a safe system that you can trust.

The story stems from when a MAX train hit a bumping post at the Expo Center in 2011 and there was speculation that the operator may have fallen asleep. This was an extremely rare and unfortunate event for TriMet—but we followed up with the appropriate investigation and discipline regarding this incident.

Since then, The Oregonian has asked for years of complaints against operators, hours of service (HOS), pay records and collision data to determine if there is a pattern of this type of behavior.

We have a few bus operators who choose to work a lot of overtime, and at times taking just a few hours off between service days. While this is rare it complies with our HOS policy. We are vigilant when it comes to improving safety because we can always do better, and we will.

Every day we do a lot to ensure a safe operation:

  • Our operators are trained professionals who all receive annual safety training and refresher training when appropriate.
  • We comply with the Oregon Department of Transportation’s requirement that we have an HOS policy approved by ODOT for our rail operators and have applied a similar policy to our bus operators. The HOS policy defines a service day differently between bus and rail. As we negotiate the next contract, we hope to work with the ATU to improve the hours of service policy and further strengthen our support of safe operations.
  • Our negotiated HOS policy limits the number of hours a person can work in a week and the number of consecutive days a person can work; it also requires a period of rest within the service day. Additionally, operators have the ability to pass up work or request later work under certain circumstances so they can get the rest they need.
  • If an operator is feeling tired, we have safety measures in place. If we get a complaint about unsafe driving or concern over a sleepy operator, we perform a field fit-for-duty check on the operator.

Bus and MAX operators come to work each day prepared to deliver safe and reliable transportation for our customers and our community. It is a responsibility every operator, and in fact, every Operations employee, takes very seriously.

Safety is our core value. There is no greater priority. We can always improve our safety efforts and will continue to do so—hand in hand with our entire Operations Division, Safety and Security Division and the ATU.

Shelly Lomax

I’m TriMet’s Executive Director of Transportation. I started at TriMet as a bus operator in 1987. I have direct responsibility for the Transportation Division, which includes all bus, MAX, WES and LIFT operations. I work every day to keep TriMet service safe, dependable and friendly.

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