Friday, 13 November 2009

Chapter 31 A Little Bit More on the Road




Well so much for my union activities, what about driving those buses and
coaches. The major change that took place on the buses and coaches was the implementation of the European Working Time Regulations (as applied to Road Transport). The EU directive lays down a maximum working week of 48 hours. Unfortunately our government has obtained an opt out. Businesses state that if they are to compete they must keep wages low, this forces the ordinary low paid worker to work excessive hours to obtain a living wage. We know that working long hours is not only detrimental to your health but also has an adverse effect upon family life. As this book is not about economics all I can say is that most drivers opted out of the 48 hour week. However the 48 hour limit did apply to coaches. The EU directive stated that any route whose length was over 50Km was subject to EU regulations and not Domestic rules. Basically this meant that drivers on the bus rotas could work for thirteen days before have a day off and came under UK Domestic rules whereas the coach route from the Hemel Hempstead estates to Victoria was over 50Km and therefore the drivers on the coach rota had to have a 36 hour break after six days work. Also any driver who did even one days work on the coaches was required to stay within the EU regulations for the next three weeks. These rules meant that the earnings on the coaches were somewhat lower than that on bus work as bus drivers could work longer hours. In consequence of this there have been a shortage of drivers applying for the coach rota.
The introduction of the EU regulations also meant the use of the tachcograph, or the spy in the cab as it was referred to. The tachograph is a round plasticated disc which sits inside the speedometer and records not only the speed the vehicle is doing but also the hours driving and breaks that a driver has. Each driver has his own supply of discs which he must keep with him and he hands them into the depot once a week keeping three weeks recorded discs with him at any one time.
I could afford to remain on the coach rota and did so. Some drivers could not afford the lower wage and went back on the buses.
So I continued to drive the 758 Greenline coaches into London on a daily basis, usually two trips a day, although two trips a day would not quite add up to our guaranteed 36 hour week and so most duties had pieces of bus work added to them either before or after having gone to London. The Union have argued for ages, but to no avail, that putting bus work in front of coach work could seriously disrupt the coach departure times. For example if you drive for an hour or more through the town especially in the rush hour then you will be late taking over your coach as there is very little leeway between coming off a bus and taking over a coach. Increasing the time between taking over the coach from the bus would encroach on the maximum driving time of four and a half hours permitted under the EU regulations. Some of this bus work included school journeys and we have all heard how horrific these can be.
Very few children these days have travelled on buses other than to go to school and therefore have no concept of how to behave on public transport. As we have to concentrate on driving chaos usually reigns on the school buses. Sometimes the schools will intervene and sometimes the drivers themselves will try to regain order but no one really seems to care, this can therefore add a lot of stress to the drivers working life.
Many years ago when Mark was about a year old I told of the time I went through a red light at West Hendon, well twenty six years later it happened again. At the top of Hendon Way were it joins the Finchely Road there is a set of traffic lights whose aspects change at the same time, if it goes from green to amber as you approach the opposite set of lights are changing from amber to green and as it’s a wide junction it could appear that by going across on amber from Hendon Way it may look as though from the Finchely Road that the vehicle has jumped the lights. This has happened to numerous coaches and as was my luck when I did it there was a police patrol car sitting on the Finchely Road. Just after I turned right I could see the blue flashing lights. I pulled up and got out of the coach. I pointed out the poor phasing of the lights and the police officers reply was “if you want to argue that in court it’s up to you”
He then checked my driving licence and with a grin said “ at least you’re consistent” referring to my previous conviction for going through a red light twenty six years earlier. Well its seemed pointless arguing my case in court so I sent my licence off to the local court and accepted the fine which the union paid. These days however the union will not pay fines imposed by the courts as it would appear to be condoning breaking the rules of the road. What the union will do which is very important is to supply you with a good solicitor if you require one. Although I did not use the union legal aid when I went through red lights, allegedly, I did need them when some idiot knocked me off my motorbike and nearly killed me.

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