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His bus was parked, and there were no passengers on board.
But when British bus driver Michael Shephard popped a grape in his mouth, his driving career was over.
The 66-year-old grandfather was sacked by National Express after five years of service when CCTV footage showed him eating at the wheel - in breach of health and safety rules.
Shephard, who had a heart bypass last year, said his medication leaves him feeling thirsty.
“I don’t eat or drink while I am driving, but I was stationary at the bus terminus for a few minutes and took a grape to wet my mouth a bit,” he explained. “Rather than getting off the bus, I just stayed in the cabin. I explained why I needed to have a sip of water or a grape every hour or so, but they said it was still against health and safety rules.”
He added: “I think it is ridiculous they are following the rules without stopping to consider whether the punishment fits the crime.”
Shephard’s actions, recorded on February 29, led to his dismissal this week. The bus company said its drivers are banned from performing “actions likely to threaten the health and safety of yourself, fellow employees, customers, or members of the public”, which include “eating whilst driving a company vehicle”.
Shephard admitted he was still eating his grape as he drove off from the terminus in Bedworth, Warwickshire, but suggested the CCTV footage may show him scratching his face - giving the impression that he continued to eat more as he drove on.
“But I know I only ate one grape,” he said. “There were no passengers on my bus, so I don’t understand what the problem is.”
Shephard, who lives in Coventry with wife Sheila, 62, fears he will not get another job because of his age.
“We haven’t paid off our mortgage yet and we might lose the house. I’m very worried,” he said. “Who is going to employ an old man like me now?”
Shephard intends to appeal his former employer’s decision.
A spokesman for the company said: “The driver in question hasn’t exhausted the disciplinary process that we have as a company, and as a result we cannot make any public comment. However, we do hold ourselves to high levels of safety and customer care standards.” - Daily Mail