One Southern California Rapid Transit District driver amassed an average of more than 32 hours of overtime each week last year, earning between $60,000 and $65,000 in the process, according to RTD figures released Wednesday.
The driver would have received only about $27,000 had he or she not worked any extra time.
The RTD's overtime report also showed that about 1% of the district's 5,000 drivers racked up at least 1,000 overtime hours last year, for an average of about 20 hours a week. Most of the overtime was accumulated by veteran drivers, who because of their seniority have the first choice at overtime assignments under existing union contracts.
The report was in response to recent studies by independent auditors who found that a high driver absenteeism rate cost the district $18.6 million last year. The audit blamed much of the driver absenteeism--averaging 32 days a year--on a liberal overtime policy established under union contracts.
Under the RTD overtime policy, the district may order drivers back to work on their days off. The policy has led to charges by the union that during a recent driver shortfall, the district abused the contract provision and drivers were forced to work seven or more consecutive days.
While the district is no longer forcing drivers to work a seventh consecutive day, there currently is no district policy that bars drivers from voluntarily working as many consecutive days--and, by extension, weeks--as they want. Some safety officials have said that the job of a city bus driver is so stressful that working more than five consecutive days without a break impairs a driver's reaction time.
In interviews, drivers have told The Times that abuses exist in which drivers call in sick on their regular work days and then work their scheduled days off at premium pay.
In the report released Wednesday, RTD General Manager John Dyer told the district board that his staff will continue to analyze "where it would be more cost-effective to hire" more drivers to reduce overtime. The drivers union has complained for more than a year that more drivers are needed to reduce the workload and has partially blamed the shortage for the recent spate of highly publicized accidents.
But Dyer at the same time explained that a certain amount of overtime is necessary to maintain an efficient bus system.
"In the case of drivers, it is virtually impossible to schedule bus runs on a straight-time basis, since the length of runs varies greatly throughout the area," Dyer said. "Also there is a need in many cases to provide bus service over an 18-hour day using just two operators."
Dyer added that management is trying to work with the drivers union to "explore policies which limit overtime per person."
The RTD did not release precise details of driver overtime, only ranges. For instance, in the example representing the highest amount of overtime, the unidentified driver received income between $60,000 and $65,000 after amassing between 1,700 and 1,900 hours of overtime last year.
Most of the drivers did not come close to accumulating the number of hours in that single example, according to the report. But 64%, or 3,448 of the district's 5,383 drivers included in the study, accumulated between 200 and 400 hours of overtime last year.