By Vic Baffoni,

Vice President, Bus

The safety of our members in the work place has been — and will always be — a priority of this union and its officers.

More and more, we are experiencing passenger assaults on drivers. Any environment where a bus operator fears for his or her safety is equally dangerous for riders and traffic sharing the highway, because when coach operators must concern themselves with possible assaults, they cannot fully concentrate on safe driving.

Some agencies are providing enclosures for drivers. In Washington, D.C., for example, where the number of assaults on bus drivers has tripled since 2002, a clear, plastic shield is being inserted between the driver’s seat and the fare box. Also, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is experimenting with an enclosure.

While some enclosures being tested protect drivers from assaults, they may block the escape route for the driver and/or passengers in the event of a collision. Protective enclosures should permit the driver to exit the bus quickly and without impeding the escape of passengers. We urge also that protective shields be manually operated and not be connected to the front frame of the coach, as such construction could cause the shield to collapse into or onto the driver in a front-end collision.

Driver safety is one of many issues I am discussing with local officers and members.

Recently, I visited locals 710 and 759 in Newark, N.J.; Local 1496 in Riverside, Calif.; Local 1584 in Lancaster, Calif.; Local 1589 in New Brunswick, N.J.; Local 1741 in San Francisco; and Local 1785 in Santa Monica, Calif. In these meetings, we also discussed their members’ concerns regarding the union. I am very impressed with the leadership of the locals and their desire to serve their memberships.

Finally, congratulations to General Chairperson Nelson Manzano and his committee in negotiating an excellent contract for members on the Red and Tan Lines in northern New Jersey.

By Bonnie Morr
Alternate Vice President, Bus

When operating a motor coach — whether carrying students, commuters, tourists or the handicapped – whenever we open the door, we are exposed to assaults.

We are vulnerable to what we do see, and what we cannot see, such as the sneezing, wheezing and coughing passengers spreading illness.

Many of us are versed in “talking down” aggressive and sometimes out-of-control passengers. The federal government and states are toughening penalties for violent acts against transportation workers, and many employers are taking additional steps to protect bus operators, such as by installing video cameras in terminals and on buses.

On page 11 of this issue, our union’s medical consultant, Dr. Norman Brown, explains how to protect ourselves against one dangerous micro-organism called MRSA.

A benefit of being a union member is that from the local level to the International, we have qualified officers and staff working each day to help improve workplace safety. For example, to the right of this column is an article and photo showing the success of the UTU in having notices posted in Coach USA buses in New Jersey warning of severe penalties for assaulting bus operators.

If you have ideas about further protecting the safety and health of bus operators, share them with your local officers, and also with Bus Department Vice President Vic Baffoni at the UTU International in Cleveland, whose e-mail address is