In a written response to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Request for Comments entitled  “Motor Carriers of Passengers That Serve Primarily Urban Areas With High Passenger Loads,” dated April 11, 2016, the Transportation Trades Division, (TTD) AFL-CIO, representing 32 affiliated transportation unions including SMART TD, submitted comments in favor of “better oversight of curbside operators. While many carriers run legitimate operations, some take advantage of their unique characteristics and business models to circumvent safety rules and other standards putting drivers and passengers at risk.” Please read the complete letter here.

la_metro_busEd Wytkind, President of TTD, AFL-CIO, John Previsich, President of SMART Transportation Division and other union leaders have released a joint letter to Anthony Foxx, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), urging the DOT to issue a rule “to protect bus drivers and other transit operators from the physical assaults that are plaguing this industry.”
Read the complete letter, here.

The (New York) Senate has passed a bill that would prohibit registered sex offenders from working as bus drivers.

The bill (S.1519) would stop the Department of Motor Vehicles from issuing or renewing a commercial driver’s license to operate a passenger or school bus to anyone who is a registered sex offender.

Read the complete story at The Legislative Gazette.

By Calvin Studivant
Alternate vice president — Bus Department

A tragic bus accident in New York City in March, which killed 15 passengers, has put an unfriendly spotlight on low-fare tour bus drivers.

The driver of the ill-fated low-fare tour bus reportedly had previously been charged with driving on a suspended license, and it will be up to investigators to determine the facts of this accident.

What we do know is that 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

The New York Times reports 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.

In fact, reported The New York Times, the owner of the low-fare tour bus involved in the New York City accident had been cited previously by regulators for “several logbook violations.”

As proud union members, we must continue to organize the unorganized because the entire transit industry takes a hit when something goes terribly wrong.

As union drivers, we cannot be forced to violate federal hours-of-service regulations. And we can refuse to operate a bus that is unsafe without fear of losing our jobs.

It our duty as union brothers and sisters to educate fellow drivers who may think it okay when pressured to work multiple shifts without proper rest, or to operate an unsafe vehicle.

Above all, we must inform non-union drivers that the UTU negotiates good contracts with competitive wages, health care and working conditions, allowing drivers to operate within the law.

If we don’t, their faults become our faults, as we are all viewed the same by the public. We cannot afford to be looked upon that way.

The UTU has set the standards for the transit industry. We will continue to raise the bar because we represent the finest transit and school bus operators in America.

SAN FRANCISCO — In this city, horribly devastated by HIV and AIDS, 24 members of UTU Local 1741 here are participating in a 565-mile bicycle trek to raise funds for support services and HIV prevention efforts.
Twenty-four members of the school-bus local, under the leadership member Beau Thomson, have participated in the event since 2005.
This year, 28 members of the local have formed their own cycling team, which will ride more than 565 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles over seven days as Team United First, which comes from a combination of United Transportation Union and their employer, First Student.
The team’s goal is to raise $100,000 from contributions. Already, $11,000 has been raised.
Most of the members of Team United First will ride bicycles, but others will serve as roadies, helping riders train and providing support services for the full week of the trip.
“In 2005, I was someone who smoked two packs of cigarettes a day,” Thomson said. “I was overweight and hadn’t done anything athletic in years. This year, I will train and ride with coworkers I’ve known for years. To see them experience this first hand will be priceless.”
Local 1741 President Sharon Wheatley said, “I enjoy helping people, and this ride seems like a good way to join the fight against AIDS, and to experience with some of my co-workers the fulfillment of working together on a fun and productive project. I have wanted to [ride] since 2005, and this is finally the year for me.”
Members of Team United First include Thomson, Wheatley, Marina Acosta, Chris Alexander, Kelly Beardsley, Sheila Bickerstaff, Marilyn Brown, Rosalie Carrico, Gerry Cooper, Lois Correa, Barb Donovan, Kathleen Duffy and Shelby Hall.
Also, Shane Hoff, former member Chris King, Sherrie Klein, David Kush, Terrance Levingston, Rina Luna, Gerardo Martin, Mario Ortiz, John Reardon, Rivas, Renee Roberts, Gabe Rocha, Julio Ruano, Emily Taormina and Dexter Thomas.
To make a donation, visit Select “Find a Participant” and enter “United First” in the team name space.

By Calvin Studivant
Alternate Vice President, Bus Department

There is no question that more must be done to protect bus operators.

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

Just in recent weeks, a driver in Utah was injured by a passenger who attacked him and caused the bus to crash. In Chicago, a driver was hospitalized in serious condition after being struck by a customer in a fare dispute. Almost daily, school bus operators must deal with abusive and unruly students.

Some employers are installing Plexiglas safety shields to protect drivers, and video cameras are being installed in buses and in bus terminals to record unruly behavior and threats.

In New Jersey, the state legislature passed a bill imposing severe punishment for anyone assaulting a bus operator or rail employee, and the law is proving to be effective. Coach USA has taken a further step and posted notices in its buses in New Jersey warning of the severe penalties for assaulting bus operators.

Our UTU National Legislative Office and many state legislative directors are working with lawmakers, many of whom are eager to craft legislation imposing penalties on those who assault drivers, and to require driver training in how to deal with unruly and abusive riders.

Within the UTU, from the local level to the International, we have qualified officers and staff working each day to help improve workplace safety.

Each of our bus locals should be working with state legislative directors to provide examples of the problem and suggestions for solutions, which should be communicated to lawmakers.

By Richard Deiser
Vice president and director, Bus Dept.

One of the most important issues facing the motor carrier industry is distracted driving.

Safe driving requires total concentration — not just on our own part, as we must also worry about other drivers not paying attention to what they are doing.

In fact, distraction can occur also in the locomotive cab and on the airplane flight deck.

As I write this column, the hot topic in the media is the airline crew that overflew their destination by over an hour. At first it was alleged that the captain and first officer were asleep. But, they later said they were using their laptops in an attempt to figure out the new method of crew scheduling.

The flight crew apparently was paying so little attention that they may as well have been asleep. There have been incidents causing death and injuries on the rails as well, such as when the locomotive engineer of a commuter train was on a cell phone and failed to see a signal.

In the past few months, there have been numerous bus accidents when either the operator or the other motorist was on a cell phone. The majority of states have now passed legislation barring the use of hand-held phones while driving. Massachusetts has gone so far as to ban any and all electronic device use by bus operators.

However, in an emergency, cell phones and communication devices can be useful, and even aid in assuring the safety of passengers.

We will be carefully monitoring legislation and policies affecting our membership and others engaged in providing transportation. In the interim, be safe and use common sense in the use of any communication device, whether personal or company provided.