PORTLAND - A temporary agreement has been reached between TriMet and the transit workers union over drivers getting adequate rest between work shifts.

The Amalgamated Transit Union s proposal asks operators to have a minimum ten hour off-duty period between the end of one shift and the start of a new shift.

The new agreement is temporary and will automatically expire once there is a new labor agreement in place, the union said.

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The Oregonian reported earlier this month that some drivers have worked as many as 22 hours in a 24-hour period. The paper found at least 21 cases during a 42-month period in which people reported seeing operators fall asleep at the wheel.

Under the current contract, TriMet drivers can work a maximum of 17 hours per service day. But the catch is that a service day ends at 1 a.m., with the next service day starting when buses resume running at 3 a.m. So some drivers were swapping shifts, for the overtime, and straddling service days. These drivers were choosing to work up to 22 hours in a 24 hour period.

A day begins at the time an employee reports to work after having at least the required number of consecutive hours off, which will be 10 hours for most bus operators, and 9 hours for operators assigned to the extra board, a statement from TriMet spokesperson Mary Fetsch said.

Fetsch said TriMet had been seeking reform for over two years, because it means a bus operator must have 9 or 10 hours off after end of shift, rather than being able to take just a few hours off.

Both parties know the public is deeply concerned about this issue, so the pressure will be on both of us to incorporate a complete and final hours of service policy into the new labor agreement, union President Bruce Hansen said.

After two days of negotiations, we re pleased that we have reached a change in policy, TriMet General Manager Neil McFarlane said. It eliminates all the double-back shifts, where a bus operator could work some 20 hours in a 24-hour period with limited time off. This will improve the safety of our operation for our employees and for our riders.

TriMet management was set to finalize the agreement for the parties to sign on Monday.

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