This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 26/06/2017.
TfL boss says operator does enough to stop drivers from falling asleep on trams
The processes and procedures to prevent tram drivers from falling asleep behind the controls are “perfectly adequate”, according to a Transport for London (TfL) boss.
This follows a driver being filmed appearing to be asleep while at the controls in George Street in May and allegations of drivers having fallen asleep in their cabs in the past.
Jonathan Fox, director of London Rail at TfL, told a TfL meeting today (Monday, June 26) how they had been auditing their contractor Tram Operations Limited (TOL), a subsidiary of FirstGroup which operates the tram network, on how it manages fatigue after this footage emerged in the press.
However, no specific mention was made at the safety, sustainability and human resources meeting, which meets every three months, about how TOL had quietly banned drivers from working 11 days in a row since the incident which the Advertiser revealed last month.
With his colleague, Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director of surface transport covering trams and buses, Mr Fox told the panel about their findings from the ongoing audit, which looked at how drivers sign on for duty, how they are quizzed about their fitness and educated on fatigue and hydration.
Tram drivers could see a more personalised risk assessment as a result of this audit.
Mr Daniels said on Monday: “It would be fair to say there’s nothing so far in our audit which has given rise to anything that would cause us special concern. There’s no evidence of people finishing on a late shift then starting on the following morning on an early shift.
He continued: “I think its correct to say that FirstGroup is so concerned from not only the [tram crash in November] but also the allegations [of drivers falling asleep], that it is going back [to investigate] drivers’ health, the way they sign on and the the consistency of the shifts and shift patterns.
“[This is] because it’s very clear that despite all the checks so far there might still be areas of concern.”
He said TfL were working “very closely” with FirstGroup on that despite the precautions it was possible for a driver to be fatigued in this way.
Mr Fox added: “The process and procedures are perfectly adequate, however, looking at modern and perhaps cutting edge practices you would expect to see personalised risk profiles for each and every driver based upon their history, their experience, their health and age and so on.
“I think that personalisation isn’t quite as strong as we’d like it to be and we’ve said so.
“If it was pilots or anything else around the world and you would expect that personalisation and that’s the direction of travel next.”
Audits are carried out by TfL on their contracts when the seen an operation in need of “special attention” and are not designed for routine reviews, the panel heard. They have periodic safety meetings with TOL.
The chair of the meeting, Michael Leibreich, urged the panel to consider how it can encourage best practices down to contracted services of both the tram and bus network.
He said: “It feels like towards the end of the year we should be doing a deep dive on how we push our contractors on the safety and wellbeing of staff and you can add mental health to that issue I suspect.”
The panel also heard how there had been 10 answers to a notice put out by TfL to possibly install automatic speed restrictions on Croydon trams and how it is likely the driver vigilance device, which would need a positive reaction from a driver, to be installed first.
Four investigations, one each by the British Transport Police, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, the Office of Rail and Road and a TfL commissioned report, into the tram crash on November 9 are continuing.
TfL’s independent report is expected to have an interim report released in the autumn with Mr Leibreich asking TfL to pin down a date as to when it will publish these findings.