Police stop damaged Atko bus, discover driver on 17-hour shift

Atko bus. Photo is illustrative.
Atko bus. Photo is illustrative. Source: ERR

During an inspection on Tuesday, police in Estonia stopped a vehicle belonging to bus operator Atko, the driver of which had been scheduled by their employer to work a 16-hour and 55-minute shift, daily Postimees writes.

It was also discovered in the course of the inspection that the driver was not using required recording equipment.

The bus was banned from reentering circulation as a fuel leak posing a fire hazard was also discovered. As a proceeding was already launched over the matter, the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) was unable to provide further comment regarding the details of the situation.

"I wish this were a one-off," said Estonian Transport and Road Workers' Trade Union (ETTA) president Üllar Kallas, adding that companies struggling with labor shortages are tempted to make bus drivers work long shifts.

According to Kallas, a 17-hour shift in a position of such great responsibility is unacceptable. A driver's shift may only last up to 13 hours, including a maximum of nine hours of driving time, which can be extended up to ten in exceptional cases.

Labour Inspectorate Deputy Director General in the Field of Prevention and Legal Affairs Meeli Miidla-Vanatalu explained that in the span of one week, a bus driver is allowed to work either five 12-hour shifts or four 13-hour shifts, followed by an eight-hour shift on the next day. Such a week must be followed, however, by weeks consisting only of shorter shifts.

Atko, meanwhile, claimed that the driver in question was working a shift shorter than 13 hours in length.

"Bus drivers' working time consists of driving time on the route, rest breaks and so on," Atko said. "The duration of the workday of this particular bus driver was 12 hours and 43 minutes, six hours and 31 minutes of which consisted of driving time. The bus driver began servicing the route at 5:25 a.m. and finished their workday at 6:21 p.m. The bus had a small fuel leak, which was repaired immediately."

According to Kallas, however, bus drivers have complained that companies are not adhering to rules regarding rest time between shifts either. He said that the union has received complaints regarding shifts ending at 1 a.m. with the next one beginning as early as 5 a.m.

"They're obviously unable to get proper rest that way," he noted.

Atko contract terminated in Harju County

North-Estonia Public Transport Centre decided on Thursday that it will be terminating its public transport contract with bus operator Atko, beginning the process of replacing the carrier in Harju County's Harku Municipality, daily Postimees writes.

Altogether 26 people were injured after a county bus operated by Atko collided with a tractor-trailer standing on the side of Tallinn-Rannamõisa-Kloogaranna Highway in the Harju County village of Meremõisa on July 18.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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