The extraordinarily high rate of absenteeism among bus drivers for the Southern California Rapid Transit District raises serious questions that have not been answered adequately either by management or by the union representing the drivers. These revelations follow closely on accidents involving bus drivers accused of drug abuse, and underscore concern about some of the drivers' sense of responsibility.
A new audit has revealed that drivers, on average, are not available for duty 36 days a year, exclusive of vacation time, with lost time equal to 16.2% of the 260-day work year. Furthermore, the audit found that disability payments are increasing rapidly, with payments for worker compensation last year almost double the 1982 total.
RTD managers say that they are handicapped in addressing the problem because of contract agreements with the union circumscribing disciplinary action. A driver is permitted up to six days of absenteeism in three months before facing any formal action, and even then the RTD gives only a warning.
The RTD has sought to provide incentives to reduce the absenteeism, but the result clearly is disappointing. Only now is it preparing to implement a home monitoring program for apparent abusers of what they call the "no-fault absenteeism system," and a computerized information system to permit tracking of patterns of abuse.