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Drivers for disabled protest over work shifts

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Drivers for Metro’s shuttle service for disabled riders protested Monday over what they call overly long work shifts, saying the hours endanger their lives and customers.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764, which represents about 800 drivers for MetroAccess, demonstrated outside MV Transportation’s office in Hyattsville. Wayne Baker, president of Local 1764, said drivers are being required to drive 13-hour shifts, causing fatigue.

“It is a safety hazard,” Baker said of the long hours of driving. “They’re endangering the lives of the elderly and disabled and their own lives,” he said of the drivers.

Federal law limits the number of hours that commercial vehicle operators can drive in a certain period. The rules are based on the weight of a vehicle and the number of seats, according to union officials.

MV spokesman Patrick W. Reilly wrote in an e-mail that the company’s goal is “that no driver ever become fatigued while operating a vehicle for MetroAccess.”

“No driver is ever scheduled to work a full 8- to 13-hour work shift without having at least 9 hours off before the driver’s next assigned shift,” he added.

The union alleges that MV has circumvented the rules by purchasing more than 100 new vehicles that fall below the seat limits. The union also alleges that MV “pulled seats” out of 13 vehicles to get around the rules.

Reilly referred to answers his company gave in a June 12 newspaper report about the seats that ran in the Examiner. In the report, MV said that it removed seats on 13 vehicles out of a 600-plus fleet to accommodate passengers who use larger wheelchairs.

MV has a 7 1 / 2-year contract with Metro worth $540 million. It hires 10 subcontractors to help it transport more than 7,000 customers a day for Metro in the Washington area.

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