Last last week, FTA published new bus and rail safety data reports to provide a snapshot of transit industry safety performance from 2007–2018 for rail and 2008–2018 for bus, and focus on patterns and trends in events, fatalities and injuries. Report summaries and full reports are accessible on the FTA website with a list of detailed links below.
This form will become the primary tool to report and collect data concerning unsafe working conditions, including COVID-19 issues, from all members. Organizational information such as Craft, Local, Carrier, State Legislative Director and General Committee are loaded based on a member’s selection using defined database values, ensuring an accurate submission so that the officers responsible for acting on the report are directly and timely informed.
Members are presented a default list of safety hazards (including COVID-19) to choose along with identifying the state and location of the unsafe condition. Additionally, the form will dynamically update based on the members’ input, creating a customized report. After submission, an automated email to the General Chairperson and State Legislative Director with jurisdiction is sent as an initial notification. Full details of the Safety Condition Report are then accessed by these officers via the TD Connect portal along with printing and exporting capabilities for further collaboration with Local officers so that the unsafe conditions can be addressed.
It is important to note that the data collected by this Safety Condition Report and the information within are kept and used solely within our SMART Union computer system and are used by SMART-TD officers to assist in addressing the issues presented by members.
“Membership safety and well-being is a founding principal of this Union, but we cannot assist without being properly informed of the unsafe issues facing our fellow brothers and sisters.” SMART-TD President Jeremy Ferguson stated. “These reports are to enhance our safety efforts as many carriers lack proper and effective reporting mechanisms. Our SMART Constitution lists safety as our local legislative representatives’ primary mission, stating ‘They shall report to their Locals regarding the handling of all alleged unsafe or unsanitary working conditions found to exist, or reported to them, within their jurisdiction. They shall undertake to correct such conditions through appropriate measures consistent with the local and national policies of the Transportation Division.’ Therefore, we ask that you also forward this information as soon as possible to your local legislative representative or other SMART Union officer for proper handling. If you are unsure who they are or how to contact them, please contact our office.
“It is imperative that we all accept the personal responsibility to properly document known unsafe conditions, acts and security concerns. If more people would take the time to do this we could, over time, address most of the long-standing concerns we have. Without documentation, nothing will ever change — the issues and concerns will continue to remain and often grow until a very unfortunate situation such as an injury, accident or fatality brings to light what many knew was a problem long ago but failed to address.”
The union’s chief of staff hopes that the use of this form brings hazards that have been taken for granted or tolerated by workers to light.
“Sadly, we hear one particular scenario too often,” SMART-TD Chief of Staff Jerry Gibson said. “Someone says, ‘That has been an issue for a long time’ or ‘Everyone knows that is a problem’ at a particular property. Yet everyone assumes that someone else has written the unsafe condition up and unfortunately, no one has. The issue remains and the carriers use that against us by stating the very same thing — ‘That has been like that forever, and no one has said anything or taken issue with it.’
“This online reporting process is here to change that. Your union’s leadership wants to raise our safety standards. The carriers will no longer be allowed to dictate our level of personal safety … enough is enough. Only when we, as a collective group, choose to properly address our issues and concerns can we expect others to comply with those demands. It is the charge of the carrier to provide us with the proper training, security and safe work environment while doing so … and we will hold them accountable.”
The Safety Condition Report is accessible directly from the SMART-TD home page as both a banner and as a menu item — look for the blinking yellow caution signal.
“Please assist us with assisting you,” President Ferguson said. “All of our members deserve safe working conditions on the job and to return home safely. If there is an issue you want to report — report it.”
A shooting aboard a Greyhound bus traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco shows how passenger and operator security for ground transportation is more vulnerable when compared to air travel, The Associated Press reported.
One passenger lost her life and five other people were wounded, two critically, in the shooting that happened as the bus was moving on Interstate 5 near the small mountain community of Lebec, Calif., early Monday, Feb. 3. The suspect, a Maryland man, was restrained by passengers and arrested by authorities.
“Anyone determined to carry out an attack on ground transportation faces few, if any, security checks,” the AP report stated.
The report mentions that more than 30 million people in the U.S. use ground transportation daily while 3 million fly. But spending on security for ground transportation such as passenger trains, subways, light rail and buses is dwarfed by spending on air transportation security. An estimate from a former U.S. representative mentioned that after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that security for buses, trains, subways and ferries combined was outspent by air security by more than $20 billion.
While winter officially arrives on December 21, many areas of the country have already been experiencing snow and ice, which can mean dangerous driving conditions. First Student urges motorists, students and parents to take extra precautions this time of year to stay safe on the roads and at the bus stop.
Even in winter weather, school buses are the safest way for children to get to and from school.
First Student buses are twice as safe as the industry average. The company’s drivers receive comprehensive training, including preparation for driving in adverse conditions. Every First Student bus also follows a strict vehicle maintenance program to ensure it is in top-operating condition.
“The safety of children on the school bus depends not only on the bus driver, but other drivers as well,” said Darryl Hill, senior vice president of safety at FirstGroup America, the parent company of First Student. “We ask everyone to join us in keeping students safe by being prepared for the travel challenges that can accompany the harsh winter months.”
First Student offers the following safety tips to drivers, students and parents:
Time is on your side. Give yourself extra time when the weather is bad. Drivers who give themselves extra time to get to their destination help ensure a safe and appropriate speed for road conditions.
Watch for school buses. Passing a stopped school bus from behind as it loads or unloads children is illegal in all 50 states. It’s estimated that more than 80,000 drivers break this law every school day, causing close calls and injuries to children. Everyone plays a role in ensuring students get to school safety, so please use caution and maintain a safe following distance.
Be prepared. Make sure the wiper blades, tires, battery and defroster are in good working condition before inclement weather hits. Keep the vehicle’s gas tank full and check window washer fluid levels.
Remain alert. Pedestrians are more likely to be rushing during cold temperatures and could be hidden by poor visibility or snow banks. Remain alert for children who may be hidden or standing in or near the street at the bus stop due to mounds of plowed snow.
Drive for conditions. Adjust your driving behavior to the weather conditions. During winter, this often requires slowing down and increasing your following distance. Anticipate that bridges and overpasses may be icy and minimize acceleration and hard-braking.
Students & Parents
Don’t rush. When roads and sidewalks are slippery, rushing to catch the bus or driving faster to make it to your destination can have disastrous results. Children need extra time to get to the bus stop in cold, windy or snowy conditions. Encouraging them to leave a few minutes early and take their time can reduce the number of falls on slick pavement.
Bundle up. Students need to keep warm at the bus stop, but they also must still be able to see and hear what’s going on around them. When bundling up your child in the morning, make sure he or she still has an adequate line of sight and can hear traffic and other noises.
Watch your step. When walking on snow covered or icy surfaces, watch where you are walking, take shorter, more deliberate steps or do the “penguin shuffle.”
Get a grip. Wear footwear appropriate for conditions. Avoid footwear with slick (no-tread) soles when walking on wet surfaces, snow or ice.
Be patient. School bus drivers are trained to drive in inclement weather; however, snow and icy roads can slow down even the most experienced driver. Safety is each driver’s top priority and extra time may be needed to get from stop to stop.
Hold on. The seemingly simple task of getting on and off the bus can be taken for granted. Always use the handrails!
Be weather aware. Bad weather can lead to school cancellations, delays or early dismissals. Make sure your school has your contact information to receive alerts, and be sure to check your school website or local media when inclement weather is expected.
About First Student, Inc.
As the leading school transportation solutions provider in North America, First Student strives to provide the best start and finish to every school day. First Student completes five million student journeys each day, moving more passengers than all U.S. airlines combined. With a team of highly-trained drivers and the industry’s strongest safety record, First Student delivers reliable, quality services including full-service transportation and management, special-needs transportation, route optimization and scheduling, maintenance, and charter services for 1,100 school district contracts. For more information, please visit firststudentinc.com.
Bus Operators employed by Montebello Bus Lines (MBL) are angry and concerned for their safety after a college student was critically injured during an attack, which occurred Monday, April 9, while riding on one of their buses.
Local 1701 Chairperson Cecilia Lopez told the Montebello City Council at a meeting Wednesday, April 11, that members have been concerned for their safety for awhile and in light of Monday’s stabbing, are demanding that the city, who owns the bus system, make improvements to safety.
“People are crazy out there. Please don’t sweep this under the rug,” Lopez said at the meeting. “What does it take to make sure our employees are safe?”
Lopez has suggested that the city place uniformed officers on every bus. The Montebello police department says that they don’t have the manpower to place an officer on every bus, but that some officers can be placed on buses, especially if more complaints are lodged.
Click here to read more from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.
SMART TD Local 1701 represents mechanics and bus operators employed by Montebello Bus Lines.
With a fleet of 66 buses, MBL serves over 8 million passengers a year throughout the communities of Alhambra, Bell Gardens, Boyle Heights, Commerce, Downtown Los Angeles, East Los Angeles, La Mirada, Montebello, Monterey Park, Pico Rivera, Rosemead, South Gate and Whittier.
SMART TD and BLET submitted joint comments to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Thursday, March 16, on their proposal to require security training for employees of higher-risk freight railroad carriers, transportation agencies, passenger railroad carriers and over-the-road bus companies.
TSA’s proposed rule will require companies to train employees performing security-sensitive functions on how to observe, assess and respond to terrorist-related threats or incidents.
SMART TD and BLET said in their comments:
“We support stronger security training requirements for surface transportation employees who serve a critical role in the movement of passengers and commercial goods nationwide. Train operators in particular are responsible for the movement of hazardous materials, which can be a high-risk target for terrorist attacks.
“In 2014, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a final rule which established minimum training standards for all safety-related railroad employees, as required by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008. We urge TSA to engage with the FRA to implement improvements to those training standards and make sure that both sets of standards don’t conflict with one another.”
According to an NPR.org report, a school bus – with no children on board – crashed into a Maryland Transit Association bus carrying dozens of commuters. Six people were killed and several were injured. Click here to read the complete article. Photo: Patrick Semansky/AP.
WASHINGTON – Buses manufactured over the past two decades by Motor Coach Industries (MCI) are the object of a federal investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration into whether drives shafts can dislodge during operation and cause bus operators to lose control of the coach.
The investigation is focusing on 4,000 MCI D-Series buses with a steerable rear axle and manufactured between 1992 and 2012.
The Associated Press reports that the loss of a drive shaft is thought to have caused two fatal crashes.
FirstGroup America, which operates Greyhound, alleges that several drive shafts became dislodged from MCI buses over the past two years, causing drivers to lose control.
As the UTU continues to lobby safety regulators and Congress on the need for bus-operator fatigue abatement, improved driver training and tougher bus-safety inspections, tragic events are placing even more emphasis on this topic.
Since January, according to Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, 32 have been killed in 17 separate bus accidents, and 323 injured. The death and injury toll already has eclipsed the 30 killed and 272 injured during all of 2010.
As the UTU Bus Department and National Legislative Office have informed safety regulators and Congress, many low-fare tour bus companies that are non-union force their drivers to work under horrendous conditions at low pay — and often with little sleep.
It is common for non-union drivers employed by low-fare tour-bus firms to sleep in their coaches between driving assignments. Many of these bus companies have been cited for safety violations, yet they continue to operate.
The New York Times has reported that low-fare tour buses transport millions of passengers annually and regulators rely on handwritten logbooks to determine if drivers are working with insufficient rest. An official of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety called the logs “comic books” and alleged they are often falsified or not filled in at all.
The UTU continues to reach out to unorganized bus operators, informing them that under UTU contracts, our members cannot be forced to violate federal hours-of-service regulations, and can refuse to operate unsafe buses without fear of losing their jobs.
Some states have stepped up safety enforcement. In New York, the state’s transportation commissioner told the Associated Press that since March, more than 3,000 surprise bus inspections were made, resulting in 304 drivers and 238 buses taken out of service.
WASHINGTON – The Republican leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will introduce legislation July 8 to slash Amtrak’s federal subsidy by 25 percent, prevent federal funds from being used to create additional rail passenger services unless they are high-speed projects, and cut federal transit funding by 30 percent.
Committee Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), and Rail Subcommittee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.) have previously made known their dislike for Amtrak and intention to destroy the national intercity rail passenger network through funding cuts and privatization of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.
The senior Democrat on the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, put the Mica/Shuster legislation in perspective: “The bill, as we have seen so far, cannot pass the [Democratic-controlled Senate].”
Opposition to the bill also is being voiced by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has joined with the AFL-CIO to lobby against it. The UTU’s National Legislative Office already is working with members in the House and Senate against Amtrak and transit funding cuts.
Amtrak funding has previously and regularly been in the crosshairs of its detractors, and another tough fight is brewing. On Amtrak’s — and transit’s — side are tens of millions of Americans who continue to make clear to their elected congressional lawmakers that they want more, not less, rail passenger and transit service.
The proposed cuts for Amtrak and transit are contained in a six-year bill entitled, “The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users, or SAFETEA-LU.” Senate Democratic leaders are pushing for a two-year bill that would be more generous toward Amtrak and transit – although at lower spending levels than sought by the Obama administration.
The House bill would also extend the deadline beyond 2015 for implementation of positive train control (PTC).
The bill also would remove a federal requirement that states use Highway Trust Fund revenue for non-highway transportation purposes, such as mass transit; but would allow states to make such decisions unilaterally.
There are, however, provisions in the House bill that have been sought by the UTU – and those provisions are expected to survive. They include:
Increasing a low-interest loan program for state transportation projects.
Encouraging states to create and capitalize state infrastructure banks to provide loans for transportation projects.
Improving transit options for the elderly and disabled.
Insulating motor carrier safety programs from any spending cuts.
Requiring federal regulators to keep unsafe buses off the road.
Improving access to the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program; and making high-speed rail projects eligible for RRIF loans.
Strengthening the rail transit safety oversight program.
Establishing annual inspection programs for buses.
Requiring regulations to establish minimum training requirements for commercial drivers.
WASHINGTON – Increased authority for random safety inspections of tour buses and money for more safety inspectors received a lukewarm reception by the Republican leadership of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee June 14 following the request by Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) Administrator Anne Ferro.
The committee hearing was called in the wake of recent high-profile tour-bus accidents — one in New York that killed 15, and another in Virginia resulting in four dead. Since January, there have been six serious bus accidents that killed a total of 25, Ferro said. She also is seeking an increase in the maximum fine from $2,000 to $25,000 for bus safety violations.
Under existing federal law, intercity buses may be inspected only at their point of origin or destination; but not enroute unless police see an expired safety sticker.
“The last thing I want to see on an interstate highway is a bus inspection and passengers unloaded,” said the committee’s chairman, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who also was cool to a request for $50 million to hire additional FMCSA safety inspectors.
Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.) said, “I hope we don’t go overboard in reaction to a couple of bad operators.”
The ranking Democrat on the committee, Nick Rahall of West Virginia, said, “Unsafe bus companies have no business operating on our roads and putting the traveling public at risk.”
A Houston, Texas, transportation official, David Palmer, expressed concern over so-called “curbside” intercity bus companies that, after being shut down by the FMCSA for safety violations, change their name and pick-up passengers from different locations. Such firms typically advertise their services on the Internet or on printed flyers that are circulated. He said those operators are skillful at avoiding origin and destination safety inspections.
The committee was told that there has been an explosion in the number of curbside bus companies that transport passengers directly from one city to another at low fares. Many of those operators are said to hire drivers with minimal training, limited knowledge of English, and who often drive without sufficient rest, while the buses they drive sometimes do not meet federal safety standards.
Few states put a priority on bus-safety inspections, and increased federal authority is required, witnesses told the committee
The president of the American Bus Association, Pete Pantuso, told the committee, “We see a lot of [states] that just don’t put enough emphasis on bus inspections. We’ve got to get [the unsafe buses] off the highway.”
Pantuso said half the deaths resulting from intercity bus accidents involve carriers and/or drivers in violation of federal motor carrier safety standards.