Unite, the UK and Ireland’s largest union, has warned that London could be brought to a halt if exhausted bus drivers decide to take industrial action later this year.

It will begin a consultative ballot of over 20,000 members employed as London bus drivers later in January and, provided a yes vote is secured, a full industrial action ballot will then follow.

Sharply critical of individual bus operators, who have suggested that the solution is simply about ensuring drivers get more sleep, the union is demanding that Transport for London (TfL), and the operators, take decisive action to tackle chronic levels of fatigue being experienced by drivers.

A survey by Loughborough University which was commissioned by TfL and published last August, discovered that 21% of bus drivers had to “fight sleepiness” at least two or three times a week and 17% had actually fallen asleep at the wheel at least once in the past year.

Unite is therefore demanding “a revolution” in how bus driving is scheduled to ensure that drivers can finish on time, are able to utilise all of their breaks, work to proper schedules, have enough running time to complete their journey, are treated with respect and receive proper training.

Unite regional officer John Murphy said: “London bus drivers have had enough; they are permanently fatigued and at risk of being a danger to other road users, bus passengers and themselves. TfL cannot simply sweep this problem under the carpet. It must act decisively and stop trying to pass the problem onto bus operators who have consistently failed to resolve the issue and have instead allowed it to worsen.”

He highlighted a survey of over 5000 Unite bus driver members in September 2019 which showed that 44% of bus drivers work six days a week with long hours creating severe physical, mental and relationship problems.

A total of 79% of drivers reported that, in the past year, they had made errors while driving due to tiredness.

Last reviewed 21 January 2020