Bus drivers work 16 hours per day due to shortage of human resources

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As soon as the working hours are over, everyone goes to the bus stop to get home. But the bus will not come. The bus station is full of people who feel cold and tap their legs to try to keep warm. Even when the bus arrives, many people cannot get on. The driver screams, “People who are in the middle, go back. I just want to contain as many people as possible in this cold. Hey, the guy with the phone, move on. Take one more step.” This driver works at the Second Motor Depot of the Passenger Transport Organization. He said that he was working on a long shift. A long shift means working alone all day without switching with another driver. Drivers work every day from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. For this purpose, the driver leaves home at 4.00 a.m. while the children are sleeping. But after work, the driver goes home at 12:00 a.m.. This is how the driver's day goes. Therefore, the driver has very little time to spend with family. Unfortunately, the salary is not enough. After working an average of 200 hours a month, the salary is insufficient for life. The driver has only two days off within a month. The driver has to work to earn extra pay.

Bus drivers have very little rest time, only 20 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at lunchtime. Ulaanbaatar Smart Card LLC monitors and calculates how many hours the drivers work. During this inspection, the above-mentioned driver also said that his work was devalued by deducting a significant part of his working hours. For this reason, people who worked with him left to work in mining companies. In general, young people who work as drivers get discouraged after only one month and have no choice but to quit.

According to public transportation drivers, the number one reason to quit is low wages. Next, the communication and attitude of the passengers who use the service and traffic congestion. New drivers are apprenticed for three days. There is also a procedure to work as an intern for three months. A driver who has been on the job for four days said, “I am going in the direction of Nisekh. I don’t know how much the salary will be. Traffic congestion and communication of citizens are the most stressful.” As mentioned earlier, he will work as an apprentice for three months. In doing so, they have the same rights and obligations as the main employees. Whether or not he will be made a full-time employee will be decided based on the number of complaints and suggestions received.

When the Ulaanbaatar Public Transportation (UPT) was asked how they dealt with the lack of drivers, the organization commented, “18 enterprises in the capital city serve citizens with 1,032 buses. More than 3,000 drivers are registered in these organizations. Of these, 1,887 are working actively. The salary of the drivers is determined depending on the years of service and their qualifications. However, the drivers said that they do not receive any extras for qualified drivers. Only the time spent on the line is calculated using the Ulaanbaatar Smart Card device. The hourly fee is 10,000 MNT.”

When we contacted the public transport service company and inquired about the availability of drivers, the organization said, “It is true that there is a shortage of drivers. It is not possible to provide other information.” According to the bus drivers, more than 20 new buses are kept at the Second Motor Depot of the Passenger Transport Organization due to the lack of drivers. When asked about this the officials said, “There is no such thing,” which made us suspect that they are trying to hide the problem.

Driver of Bluebus LLC, B.Khishigbat said, “Our company is supposed to run 38 buses per day, but only 30 are released due to lack of drivers. I work a long shift for two days and then take a day off. Now, I have worked 14 hours, but Ulaanbaatar Smart Card calculates that as 10 hours. I don’t know why. To increase the number of drivers, our company hires part-time workers. They are working for 100,000 MNT per day. Drivers often leave their jobs because of low wages and passenger communications.”

The officials say drivers do not work long shifts. In such cases, it is allowed only upon the request of the driver. However, every driver mentioned that they work long shifts. The officials and the drivers are contradicting each other here. They are working 16 hours a day because there are not sufficient drivers. However, it is unfortunate that their working hours are reduced and their wages are decreased. The drivers emphasized that the problem will be solved if the shortage of drivers is solved and if the salary is increased.

Teacher at the Department of Mental Health of the Mongolian National University of Medical Sciences, B.Baasandorj explained how working long hours every day affects a person’s mental health. He said, “The World Health Organization’s research has shown that working more than 55 hours a week has a direct negative impact on health. When you work a lot, the cortisol hormone is released in the blood, and negative effects such as increased blood pressure and decreased mental capacity, can be observed. The first negative effect of working long hours is sleep disturbance. Working 16 hours a day and sleeping for four hours a day reduces a person’s ability to concentrate, process and solve problems. In addition, it creates chronic fatigue.”

Then he continued, “Another serious effect is irregular eating due to workload. By overeating when you can eat, you will develop an overeating appetite. In addition, there is no time for regular exercise. 75-150 minutes of active exercise per week can prevent cardiovascular disease and diabetes. In addition, most importantly, it will have a positive effect on preventing depression. The most damaging are relationship problems. In particular, it has a significant negative impact on family and close relationships. Having positive relationships with loved ones protects a person from loneliness, positively affects cognition and memory, and makes one feel happy. But working too much destroys this opportunity and makes you incompatible with others. Due to the negative effects mentioned above, it was found that people who work abnormal hours use alcohol and tobacco to relieve stress and relax.”

Last year, Prime Minister L.Oyun-Erdene met with public transport workers and industry leaders. At that time, the government said that in the coming year, Ulaanbaatar Public Transportation Park will be reformed, service quality and standards, and difficult problems such as lack of human resources will be comprehensively solved. However, nothing has changed until the end of this year. On the contrary, the situation is getting worse, and with the “green bus” incident, the public continues to lose the trust of public transport. Spokesperson of the Governor of Ulaanbaatar, N.Sugar said, “Bus drivers’ salaries are low compared to those in the mining industry. Therefore, drivers are forced to work at bus stations. It is planned to pay drivers 3 million MNT next year.” This is just a plan. It is not clear whether it will be implemented or not. However, the drivers said that they have great expectations and confidence in it. The average salary of drivers is 1.7-2.5 million MNT.

The largest organization operating in the public transportation sector is the Passenger Transportation Organization (PTO). The company has three depots. The head of the Administration and Management Department of PTO Ch.Bat-Erdene clarified what the drivers said. He said, “There has been a shortage of drivers for the last three to four years. The drivers go to work in the mines of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC. Last spring, this organization laid off its staff. As a result, the number of people working in public transportation has increased. If the shift driver takes time off, the other shift driver must request to work longer. We don’t have drivers who work long shifts.” If a driver works in the mines of Erdenes Tavan Tolgoi JSC, the monthly salary is 3.5-5 million MNT. This is twice as much as working in public transport. Drivers mostly drive large trucks and machinery.

Starting in January, the public transportation of the capital city will be renewed and 600 buses will be imported. But the current situation “says” that there is no one to drive those buses. When asked how to fill the shortage of drivers when these buses arrive, Spokesperson of UPT, T.Uuriinsolongo said “With the arrival of these buses, vehicles that have reached the end of their service will be taken out of service. So, just because 600 buses have arrived does not mean that additional drivers will be needed. 40-50 percent of all vehicles are still in service life expectancy even though they have reached the end of their service life. The service life expectancy of the bus is 11 years.

Dashmaa D