SMART TD supports bill to protect bus, transit operators

Published: February 12, 2019

SMART Transportation Division leaders support the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R.1139) introduced by U.S. Reps. Grace F. Napolitano (D – Calif.) and Congressman John Katko (R – New York) on Feb. 11 that would make the workplace safer for bus operators and commuter rail workers nationwide.

Members of SMART TD are urged to contact their U.S. senators and representatives to get them to support this important legislation. Please visit the SMART TD Legislative Action Center to find out how to get in touch with your legislators and take action on this important legislation.

“While most interactions between SMART TD members and the passengers they serve are peaceful encounters, too often that is not the case,” SMART Transportation Division John Previsich said. “Our members deserve the protections necessary to ensure their safety, health and well-being. This legislation will require transit agencies to develop risk-reduction programs to make bus and transit services safer for TD members, riders and pedestrians alike.”

Incidents of assault on public transit occur in the United States frequently and threaten the safety of SMART TD members, the riding public and pedestrians. Countless news reports involving violent acts by unruly passengers have left SMART TD bus operators and transit employees as victims of violence.

“You name it — our members have encountered it and have had to deal with these gruesome, violent occurrences. Yet we’ve seen little done about it. This legislation fulfills the need for adequate driver shields and mandatory de-escalation training,” said SMART TD National Legislative Director John Risch. “Thank you to Representatives Napolitano and Katko for refining this important piece of legislation and for being steady in their continuing commitment to making public transportation safer in the United States.

“Our pledge is to continue to work with Congress and the Administration to ensure transit workers and those who use public transit receive the protection they deserve.”

The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act requires that both rail and bus transit agencies (those not covered by the FRA) create risk-reduction plans to protect operators within two years of the bill’s passage and that the agencies submit those plans to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for approval.

Some components of these plans could include physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for workers, driver-assistance technology to reduce accidents, ergonomic improvements to prevent operator injuries and modified specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments for operators.

The bill also requires that any assault on a transit or bus operator be reported to the DOT’s National Transit Database.

“There is no higher priority than operator safety. Too often we’ve seen reports of drivers getting assaulted and having their lives irreversibly changed simply because they were behind the controls doing their jobs,” said Calvin Studivant, SMART TD Bus Department vice president. “The risk-reduction programs and other safety requirements that this bill puts in place will help to keep our members safe.”

The Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R. 6016), a similar bill introduced by Napolitano and Katko last year, picked up co-sponsors from both parties in the U.S. House and received the endorsement of SMART TD and other transportation unions. U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland introduced a companion bill to the 2018 legislation in the U.S. Senate and is doing the same with H.R. 1139.

The Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act continues to build upon these efforts to eliminate bus and transit operator assaults, thus protecting workers, the riding public and pedestrians. It likewise receives SMART TD’s full backing.