WASHINGTON – Special cameras on Metro buses have caught 68 incidents of drivers briefly nodding off behind the wheel over the course of 19 months and fatigue could be a factor.
Half of the drivers who briefly fell asleep were working both morning and afternoon shifts which can add up to a 16-hour day or what’s referred to as a split shift. Jack Requa, Metro’s Assistant General Manager of Bus Services says split shifts are necessary to operate the system and drivers have rest time in between their morning and afternoon runs.
Metro board member Mortimer Downey seconds the importance of split shifts. “Split shifts are a way of life in the transit industry. It’s the only way to run an economic service,” he says.
“We’re not saying that it’s not serious,” says Requa. But he cites the number of dozing driver incidents reported by The Washington Examiner as representing less than 1 percent of the 370,000 trips a month.
Bus drivers dozing behind the wheel is not something riders want to hear but Metro is doing something about it.
One driver has received disciplinary action and drivers involved in these incidents have all been sent for medical examinations and help with sleep management before they went back on the road.
Downey says an additional solution is Metro is building more rest areas or “quiet rooms” for drivers to recharge.
A rider outside of the Dupont Circle Metro station in Washington, D.C. on Thursday says, “Hopefully, Metro cracks down on that, adjusts their shift schedule or hires more people.”
Requa says, “We’re not pushing the people to work extra long hours. It’s a very rare exception.”
WTOP’s John Aaron and Hank Silverberg contributed to this report.