PennDOT waiver lets transit drivers ditch state law's work time limits
PennDOT granted a waiver to transit agencies on Tuesday that allows drivers to ignore a state law preventing them from working marathon shifts.
The one-year waiver gives PennDOT and transit officials time to lobby legislators to change rules, PennDOT spokeswoman Erin Waters-Trasatt said. It requires agencies to log drivers' hours and crashes and, after six months, to impose work time limits that are less stringent than existing law.
“Complying with the current regulations would have some serious service and financial impacts,” Waters-Trasatt said.
PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch emphasized in a memorandum that “there is no apparent safety problem with the hours being worked by transit drivers across the state.”
Schoch said it's important to set limits for truckers and intercity bus drivers who travel long distances along highways, often at night with few breaks or interaction with others.
As for transit drivers, Schoch said: “Buses typically operate on shorter route segments, have frequent breaks (and) operate at lower speeds,” among other things.
Officials with Port Authority of Allegheny County and Philadelphia-based SEPTA told the Tribune-Review in January that drivers routinely break state law by driving more than 10 hours at a time, or working more than 15 hours at a time in any capacity.
Overtime helped 79 of Port Authority's 1,300 drivers make at least $80,000 last year on base salaries of $52,000, records show.
Port Authority, SEPTA and the Pennsylvania Public Transportation Association petitioned for the waiver, arguing they would need to spend millions of dollars to adhere to the law.
“We're currently reviewing PennDOT's decision,” Port Authority spokeswoman Heather Pharo said.
To comply with the law, Port Authority officials had said the agency would need to hire 24 drivers at an annual cost of $1.1 million, along with a one-time driver training cost of $96,000 — expenses it couldn't afford. Instead, the agency said it would trim service by 3 percent, resulting in fewer trips, longer waits and overcrowded buses.
Port Authority's financial problems are years-long, but officials said the agency finished the fiscal year on June 30 with a $22.4 million surplus that inflated its reserve fund to $51 million. That amounts to about 14 percent of its $366.6 million budget.
The state police Commercial Vehicle Safety Division had expressed safety concerns about the drivers' long hours. On Thursday, spokesman Trooper Adam Reed said the bureau has “no opinion on PennDOT's decision to waive the hours of service,” and that troopers will go along with it.
Agencies will be required in three months to keep records of hours worked by drivers, along with reports listing the times that crashes occurred and any contributing factors.
In six months, the state will begin limiting drivers from driving more than 18 hours in a single day or from being on duty for 30 hours over two days. Drivers will be required to go off the clock for at least eight hours between shifts.
Tom Fontaine is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Group’s proposed fracking moratorium for Allegheny County parks to go on council agenda
- Defying the odds makes this Thanksgiving particularly poignant
- Growth spurs expanded staff at Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank
- Millions in pollution fines went unused for decades in Allegheny County
- Apartment development outlined for former Schenley High School in Pittsburgh
- Rare surgery helps woman beat paralysis
- Newsmaker: Daniel Eichinger
- U.S. Steel to relocate corporate headquarters on former Civic Arena site
- Dinners, other Thanksgiving events planned in region
- Girl, 12, rescues 4-year-old sister from burning house in Homestead
- Nude photos of Penn Hills High School students spur investigation