The working conditions and the lifeworld of bus drivers: phenomenological study


Vanessa Carine Gil de AlcantaraI; Rose Mary Rosa Costa Andrade SilvaII; Eliane Ramos PereiraIII

I Psychologist, PhD student, Fluminense Federal University, Niterói, Brazil. Fellow by Foundation for the Support of Research in the State of Rio de Janeiro. E-mail: vanessagilpsicologa@hotmail.com
II Nurse, Psychologist and Philosopher. PhD in Nursing and Psychology. Lecturer at Fluminense Federal University, Niterói, Brazil. Email roserosauff@gmail.com
III Nurse, Psychologist. PhD in Nursing. Associate Professor at the Fluminense Federal University. Niterói, Brazil. E-mail: elianeramos.uff@gmail.com

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.12957/reuerj.2016.12514




Objective : to describe the perceptions of bus drivers in the east of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, about possible improvements to their work condition. Method: qualitative, descriptive study conducted in 2014, with 16 bus drivers, using a semi-structured interview technique. Data analysis was carried out by meaning units supported by the Merleau-Ponty's phenomenology. The study was approved by the Ethics and Research Committee (CAAE No 19593513.2.0000.5243). Results: drivers highlight the interpersonal relationship as an important factor to have a good working day. Their perception of their lifeworld is given from their socio-historical, existential conditions. They are also linked to economic and livelihood on working and income. Conclusion: to take the driver's perception under consideration means to value them not only as a professional but also as the main part for the service as well as to see them as protagonists in their lifeworld.

Keywords : Stress; working conditions; perception; health.




The work of psychology in a bus garage does not consist merely in recruiting and selecting candidates. The daily practice transcends the needs of hiring of the organization, because bus drivers need psychological attention in order to give meaning to their stressful work routine. The focus of public transport companies is a product that sells: travels. However, urban mobility cannot exist without people,1 after all, buses are not autonomous. Perceiving bus drivers beyond their function is essential to value them.

Driving, despite of being an individual task, is a collective task. Population depends on the transportation service and people use buses as a means of getting around, but transport service may be compromised if the working day becomes the scene of interpersonal conflicts2

When the bus driver works, he excludes his subjectivity. Sometimes harassed by society, he has his mental image distorted, and the quest for quality of life for this professional goes against the very need for solidity of urban mobility. The exclusion of the subjectivity of drivers can induce sickness in this worker, affecting the quality of the services rendered, and deconstructing the feeling of belonging to the organization3. This research had the objective to describe the perceptions of bus drivers in the eastern Rio de Janeiro aiming at possible improvements to the work condition.



The perceived world represents an inexhaustible source of meanings 4. When looking at a tree, the human consciousness about it will be linked to the emotions that this perception causes on us, the meaning that the tree produces, the meaning tied to the perception of each person. What science creates and technology uses are superficialities of interaction; only our perception is able to elicit meaning.

The urgencies created by consumerism lead man to reduce the own existence into the search for material goods, but the perceived world makes us understand that the return to the phenomenon essence was a way of liberation for the human question, the body itself, the perception of oneself and also for the appreciation of critical thinking.

The bus drivers' daily routine happens inside a moving office: the bus. Challenges at work go beyond passenger transport. They include interpersonal relationships between professionals, which is not always friendly, lack of courtesy in the traffic causing bus accidents and even hostilities from clients5.

Bus drivers face difficulties due to the buses ergonomic discomfort, complications in the flow of traffic and, also, bad conservation of the roads6. These factors can contribute to the impoverishment of professional sense and also generate physical and psychological suffering in the bus driver.

The effects of these stressors can be minimized with motivational trainings that allow professionals to value their activity as a way of insertion into a social group.

In 2012, the Urban Mobility Law7 was enacted, aiming to integrate transportation and greater accessibility to the population that depends on the service. This law directs the service regulation, guarantees the rights of users, presents the attributions of government spheres, but excludes the perceptions of drivers as to the possible improvements of working conditionsin their conception. The present work intends to give meaning to the importance of the profession in the social scene of urban mobility.



This is a qualitative study with descriptive character8. The scenario was a collective transportation company in eastern Rio de Janeiro. Research participants totaled 16 bus drivers.

The inclusion criteria were established based on the company's policy, time in the profession, drivers with more than one year in the post, over 22 years, who signed the Informed Consent Term. The study proposal was presented to the participants, as well as the reading and explanation of the Informed Consent Term, in order to guide possible questions, according to the ethical and legal specifications of Resolution CNS 466/129 of the Ministry of Health. Interviews were conducted from March to July 2014, through a script with open questions.

After the data collection, the data categorization methodological step was carried out, considering the following moments for data appreciation: reading the report after transcription without seeking any interpretation, new reading to discriminate the units of meanings, noting the excerpts that approach the phenomenon being researched, the transformation of everyday expressions of the subject aiming to identify the categories, and synthesis of the units of meaning. All units of meaning must be taken into account for the structuring of categories for analysis10. The units of meaning were backed by Merleau-Ponty's phenomenological frame4.

In order to perform the data analysis, the methodology defined by phenomenology scholars was considered. Phenomenology is a movement of direct inquiry8, which describes the phenomena that are experienced by consciousness, without theories about its causal explanation and as free as possible of presuppositions and prejudice. The research was approved by the Research and Ethics Committee (REC) of the Faculty of Medicine of the Fluminense Federal University (FFU), CAAE nº 19593513.2.0000.5243.

To ensure the participants' anonymity, they are identified by the letter I (interviewed) and a number corresponding to the order of participation in the study. Example: I1, I2 and so forth.



Three categories emerged from the analysis of discourses, explored below.

Salary is part of the improvement of life

Salary of the bus driver and working conditions are constantly questioned by the road workers themselves, who always look for work schedules that allow extra hours and touristic rides on weekends to increase their income. The company in question has a great concern with the schedule of drivers, to assure the rest period of these workers, as this is essential for these professionals, since the work is exhausting11 and requires focus and attention. Rest is important to replenish their energies and to avoid overloading the body.

Suggestions for improvements perceived by participating drivers were:

Firstly it should ban the double shift because most accidents happen with drivers who were doubling, changing the service schedule and working one day and getting the other at home, to improve the salary and to change uniform in the summer season. (I1)

The first step ... would be to return the salary ceiling of the road workers that was gradually taken away by the entrepreneurs and this will help everyone, because we could work less and have a wage worthy of a road worker. (I5)

First, salary and vehicles conditions; roads conditions; and cleaning of vehicles and roads in general. (I8)

More decent salary to carry lives and fairer conditions for the exercise of the function (I13)

For workers, salary is directly linked to the valorization of the activity and a response to its importance in society. The demands of these professionals transcend the payment value at the end of the month, and they have to face daily situations generated by the hurry of others, complaints of passengers. Absence from work is a frequent form of protest, which end up in reductions in their own salary.

Absenteeism affects productivity12. The main causes of absenteeism are: physical or mental illness, family issues, low motivation to work due to stress and dissatisfaction with the organization's policies 13. All accumulated energy needs a discharge path, that is, it needs to be properly channeled. This way of unloading of workers should be found in the very organization they work in order to ensure a balance, lowering the tension and consequently reducing the psychic load 14. It is, therefore, about the perception of their lifeworld, which occurs from their socio-historical, existential, economic and subsistence conditions linked to work and income4.

Valorization of the profession by users and by the organization

Care for the space of coexistence, zeal for organizational climate, cultivation of values as trust are measures inferred as necessary and urgent for the reduction of suffering and for the promotion of pleasure.

If people could put themselves in the driver's place, only the driver knows what the profession is like [...]. (I1)

The government should recognize our profession, we carry something that has no value, life has no value at all, [...] if a bus crashes, and this can cause damage. (I2)

Do not forget him (driver) as a professional, give peace to the professional so that he may feel motivated, important. (I4)

My job would improve if I knew that people managers and the team with whom I work [do their part] then I would work without worries. (I6)

Work, as a fundamental human right, must be carried out under conditions that contribute to a better quality of life, in order to guarantee the workers' physical and mental integrity. The request of the bus drivers transcends the urban mobility policy. There is concern about their responsibility of carrying lives and they call the attention of the organization to inequalities of treatment among the drivers themselves.

I kindly ask to listen to bus drivers and try to find out what is going on in the street with the professionals ... some of them work right, some of them work wrong. (I9)

The perception of their function in society is the main point that defines the way of conducting their own life, the work15. Thus, there is a plurality of meanings in the activity of the bus driver in function of the plurality of forces in struggle in their existence for the worlds they inhabit. Perceiving the world means to look at the world and look at something, it means also coming to inhabit it4.

Better care of themselves and for themselves at work

Indisputably, these professionals believe that beyond the inclemency of daily life, driving is an experience inserted in social life and, through work activity, life goes its own way, bringing satisfaction to the taste of driving. The perception of space is not a particular class of states of consciousness or acts, and its modalities always express the whole life of the subject, the energy with which he tends toward a future through their body and world4.

Analyzing the interviews, a common word in the discourse of these professionals was satisfaction. The reports show that these drivers are protagonists in the traffic scenario, and they demonstrate that they like what they do from interpersonal contact, from the activity of driving 16. Such findings are confirmed in another study16. The experience is perceived with satisfaction and reinforces one's professional identity.

The drivers' workstation consists of a series of controls that they use in order to accomplish their task. Buses that receive proper maintenance are a fundamental aspect, so that the drivers do not develop illnesses, according to ergonomic principles. Drivers emphasize interpersonal relationships as an important factor in having a good working day.

For me, it's about having a good car to work with, and deal with good people. (I5)

What needs to improve is the professionals themselves, they must respect the company [...], work more skillfully and respect their passengers. (I7)

It would be, every human being to have more patience and prudence in traffic, both drivers and passengers through the company, I say it again, that I have always had support [...]. (I16)

Improvements are perceived as essential factors for staying in the organization, and they show concern for health.

Pay more attention to female drivers, in the matter of uniforms, [...] the weather is hot, driving in the afternoon in the sun, and on the side of the engine, this will certainly make you feel bad, just worry about driving and charging and pay attention on exchanging money. ..]. (I10)

It is about respect in the work sector such as the condition of the driver's seats that is very poor and the heat, they could give some comfort to the driver, when he starts and ends the trips. (I15)

We can affirm that the health problems of bus drivers are due to factors external to the collective (accidents, assaults) and internal factors: discussions with passengers, poor vehicle operation, mechanical problems of the car, and these can result in traces of low tolerance to the frustration, dissatisfaction with the workload and dismissal requests.

It is essential to understand that the working conditions and the world of life of bus drivers are related to the very humanization of the working conditions. It is worth emphasizing the importance of the organization's human resources, from the specialized listening, in the search for meaning to the drivers complaints and in the organizational logistics reinforcement, valuing the man, the human being as power, as perceived body, as driver of their own existence.



Bus drivers have needs that go beyond the professional practice, when they deal daily with working conditions that are not always favorable. Even in the face of so many challenges, bus drivers described their perceptions not only for their own benefit, but also highlighting the valorization of their activity by society and by the organization, which is important for their own satisfaction.

The organization must know the factors that generate dissatisfaction among employees. Next, it should provide the worker openness for the expression of their internal resources - such as self-worth, satisfaction and personal fulfillment; as well as external resources - facilitating the adaptation of the worker to the institution, through good working conditions, proper maintenance of buses, adequacy of working hours, infrastructure, good salaries and incentives as a career plan.

The organization should solve problems, i.e. the lack of human, physical, psychological and social resources, through an efficient management. These aspects lead to negative view of work - a decrease in the quality of customer service, a greater effort by the workers, which can even lead to work accidents, and consequently, dissatisfaction.

The participation of employees in some decisions fundamental to the company stability should be encouraged, as this would give them responsibility for the work and recognition, opportunities for improvement at work and in the organization. Considering the drivers' perception means to value them not only as professionals but also as a main part of the service, leading them to be protagonists in their lifeworld.



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