Over the past three years, more than 100 MetroAccess drivers responsible for shuttling elderly and disabled Metro riders were cited for falling asleep on duty. Still, the contractor running the service wants to extend drivers’ hours.
MetroAccess is a door-to-door service for the elderly as well as mentally or physically disabled riders. John Taylor is one of those using the shuttle service. The 78-year-old is a heart patient, walks with a cane and is on dialysis. He and his wife have been using Access for three years.
“We are very dependent on this service, it's a paid service it's not free,” Taylor said.
The Metro contractor, MV transportation, wants to extend driver's shifts to 13-hour days with a one-hour lunch break for four days a week. The union which represents 1,500 drivers argues drivers are nodding off behind the wheel and extending hours could put everyone in danger.
Since 2008, 113 drivers were cited for fatigue, according to documents obtained by the union from the contractor. Of the drivers cited, 87 were caught on surveillance cameras mounted inside the vans, the union explained.
The Taylors said driver safety has to be the number one priority because Access customers are often limited in their ability to move on their own. They can't help themselves.
“You don't want drivers exhausted and have an accident … We couldn't afford an accident,” Taylor said.
Staff at the MV transportation's facility in Capitol Heights refused to make the general manager available for an interview.