June 26, 2023, was the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) deadline for the public to respond to their Notice of Public Rule Making (NPRM) on forming new Public Transportation Agency Safety Plans (PTASPs.)

FTA requested public comments on how to keep bus operators safe on the job, and as a union SMART Transportation Division answered the bell.

The National Legislative Department would like to thank all of our bus members for their time, efforts, and the quality of the ideas shared while we were putting together our response. SMART-TD reached out to you, and you answered. We truly are an organization that can only be as strong as our members and your assistance was highly appreciated.

As a result of the feedback we received from multiple bus members, Bus Vice Presidents Calvin Studivant and Alvy Hughes, as well as Anthony Petty, representing our members from SEPTA in Philadelphia, Pa., SMART-TD’s team submitted a strong response.

Unlike many responses they received, ours was fueled by information and creativity that came straight from the front lines.

Thank you all for your efforts to keep yourself as well as your union brothers and sisters safe at work and both represented as well as respected in the PTASP development process.

Read the submission to FTA (PDF)

FTA has not yet implemented worker safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

WASHINGTON – Today, 20 labor organizations representing transit drivers and other transportation workers urged Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Administrator Nuria Fernandez to immediately implement the safety provisions in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) to protect transit workers from assault.

Four months after the passage of the BIL, the FTA has yet to implement these safety provisions. Meanwhile, transit workers continue to face danger on the job.

Assaults against transit workers have long been a concern but dramatically increased during the last three years of the pandemic, as did assaults on other frontline transportation workers like airline and airport workers.

Labor unions representing frontline transit employees have responded to this crisis over the years through legislative and regulatory measures, most recently securing several provisions in the BIL to protect transit workers.

Because of the BIL, the FTA is now statutorily required to collect accurate data on transit workforce assaults, to reform its Public Transportation Agency Safety Plan (PTASP) process to include worker voices and incorporate measures to reduce the risk of assault in every transit system, and to update its national safety plan to address the risk of assault and public health concerns.

The unions wrote: “Our members include bus and rail transit operators, station agents, car cleaners, mechanics and other frontline workers, all of whom are at risk of assault and worse each day they arrive at work. President Biden committed to protecting these workers and that promise was enshrined into law as part of the BIL. Before, and particularly during the COVID19 pandemic, these workers have laid their lives on the line every day to ensure Americans have access to safe, reliable transportation, and we must not turn our backs on them another day.”

Signers of the letter include the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO (TTD) and the nation’s largest transit unions, including the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), Transport Workers Union of America (TWU), International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers–Transportation Division (SMART-TD), International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), and Transportation Communications Union/IAM (TCU).

The letter was also signed by the following unions: Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA), American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), American Train Dispatchers Association (ATDA), Association of Flight Attendants–CWA (AFA), Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes–IBT (BMWED), Brotherhood of Railroad Signalmen (BRS), International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), International Brotherhood of Boilermakers (IBB), International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA), International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (IOMM&P), International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT), National Conference of Firemen & Oilers, SEIU (NCFO), Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU), and Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS).

Read the letter here.

Legislation championed by the SMART Transportation Division that toughens penalties on passengers who do harm to transportation workers has passed both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature and has been sent to Gov. Phil Murphy’s (D) desk for his signature.

Assemblyman Daniel R. Benson (D-Dist. 14) and state Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Dist. 18) were the driving forces behind the versions of the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act that ran concurrently in rapid fashion through both chambers of the New Jersey Legislature.

“Transportation workers are far too often subjected to vicious attacks by irate passengers for simply doing their jobs,” said Benson, who serves as chairperson of the Assembly Transportation and Independent Authorities Committee. “Our bus and rail employees must be protected as they fulfill their critical duties on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of commuters in our state.”

On the Republican side, State Sen. Robert R. Singer (R-Dist. 30) also championed the bill in the Senate.

“Unfortunately, there have been many instances where bus and train operators are assaulted by unruly passengers. People who engage in such abhorrent behavior are not only putting the lives of the operators at risk, but also the lives of all the passengers,” he said. “This legislation will significantly increase the penalty for such assaults, and act as a deterrent for future altercations.”

The legislation was crafted in response to incidents when two New Jersey Transit (NJT) employees were assaulted this past year. The Senate version, S-4071, passed unanimously Dec. 20 on a 39-0 vote. The Assembly version, A-6013, passed unanimously with a 76-0 vote on the same day.

While testifying as a proponent of the bills in both chambers, N.J. State Legislative Director Ron Sabol made it clear that it’s past time to toughen enforcement, especially after the on-the-job assaults by passengers on NJT employees.

“We thank legislators for their overwhelming support of this legislation,” Sabol said. “They’ve seen those heinous attacks on our members doing their jobs, stepped up and have done the right thing to protect transportation workers and the public.”

The bill upgrades the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus or autobus operator, the operator’s supervisor and a rail passenger employee. It also empowers NJT, motorbus companies and all rail passenger service providers to ban riders from their transportation services for up to one year if the person commits an assault on a motorbus operator, the operator’s supervisor or a rail passenger employee.

If a deadly weapon was used during the assault, the rider may be banned for life.

“It’s a great bill and could be a blueprint for other states,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “Congratulations to SLD Sabol and the New Jersey State Legislative Board for their outstanding work.”

Legislation championed by SMART Transportation Division New Jersey State Legislative Director Ron Sabol to protect transportation workers passed unanimously through a state Senate committee Nov. 8.
The bill (S-4071) or the Motorbus and Passenger Rail Service Employee Violence Prevention Act, was introduced by state Sen. Patrick J. Diegnan Jr. (D-Middlesex) in response to recent incidents in which two NJ Transit (NJT) employees were assaulted for trying to enforce a federal coronavirus mask mandate.
In testimony before the committee, Sabol made it clear to senators that it was past time to toughen enforcement after a pair of violent events aboard NJT trains.
The legislation “is critical to all transit workers, as well as the public,” Sabol said. “I’m sure all of you have seen in the news assaults of public transportation workers are on the rise at an alarming rate. This is out of control at this point. I think we really need to look at addressing it in some way here in New Jersey.”
In October, an NJT rail passenger pulled a knife on a conductor who asked him to wear a mask in Bergen County, according to NJ.com. The passenger was arrested and charged with assault.
Two months earlier, a rail passenger was jailed after he launched into a racist tirade then got into a physical confrontation with an NJT conductor aboard a Hoboken-bound train, NJ.com reported.
S-4071 upgrades the penalty for all assaults on a motorbus or autobus operator, the operator’s supervisor, and a rail passenger employee. It also empowers NJT, motorbus companies and all rail passenger service providers to ban riders from their transportation services for up to one year if the person commits assault on a motorbus operator, the operator’s supervisor, or a rail passenger employee.
If a deadly weapon was used during the assault, the rider may be banned for life.
The legislation also requires NJT and motorbus companies to:

  • Equip each bus and rail and light rail vehicle with a communication system that allows the operator to alert the company or NJ TRANSIT and appropriate law enforcement agencies when the operator is in distress.
  • Coordinate with law enforcement and transit police to help protect bus operators and rail employees on potentially problematic routes.
  • Establish an employee assistance program for bus operators and rail employees that have been assaulted.
  • Provide periodic violence and mental health training to bus operators and rail employees.

The measures are designed to reduce acts of violence against transit employees and to provide transit workers with techniques for deescalating potentially violent situations.
Diegnan, chair of the N.J. Senate Transportation Committee, said the bill was crafted with labor and carrier’s safety concerns in mind.
“We all have the same purpose,” Diegnan said during the committee meeting. “We want to protect these folks and at the same time not unintentionally harm the carriers.”
The bill moves on to the full state Senate for consideration.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), the chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, introduced the Stop Sexual Assault and Harassment in Transportation Act (H.R. 5706) Oct. 25, legislation to help protect passengers and personnel from sexual assault and harassment in different modes of transportation that includes the creation of new civil penalties that would apply to physical assaults or threats against Amtrak employees and other covered transportation workers.
“When it comes to the transportation of people, safety must always come first, and that includes protecting people from sexual harassment and assault,” Chair DeFazio said. “With this legislation, we can make important strides toward adequately training personnel, establishing formal policies against sexual assault and harassment, and facilitating the reporting of these incidents. In addition, my bill would help the public understand the scope of this problem by establishing the first-ever federal clearinghouse for transportation-related sexual assault and harassment data. I look forward to working with my colleagues to get this legislation signed into law so we can help stop sexual violence and abuse on our roads, on our waters, on our trains, and in our skies.”
This legislation will help prevent sexual assaults and sexual harassment on airplanes, buses, passenger vessels, commuter and intercity passenger railroads, taxis and ride-sharing vehicles. Specifically, it would require covered companies to establish formal policies against sexual assault and harassment, facilitate the reporting of sexual assault and harassment incidents, establish civil penalties for individuals who physically or sexually assault—or threaten to assault—transportation personnel, and require the Department of Transportation to collect and publicly share data on the number of sexual assault or harassment incidents reported by transportation companies covered under the bill. The AFL-CIO Transportation Trades Department (AFL-CIO TTD), of which the SMART Transportation Division is a member, is among the entities that have issued endorsements of the bill.
Last Congress, Chair DeFazio introduced similar legislation that unanimously passed the House of Representatives.
Original co-sponsors of H.R. 5706 include:

  • Julia Brownley (D-CA)
  • Salud Carbajal (D-CA)
  • Andre Carson (D-IN)
  • Adriano Espaillat (D-NY)
  • Jared Huffman (D-CA)
  • Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX)
  • Rick Larsen (D-WA)
  • Alan Lowenthal (D-CA)
  • Stephen Lynch (D-MA)
  • Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY)
  • Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)
  • Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ)
  • Albio Sires (D-NJ)
  • Dina Titus (D-NV)

Read the bill’s text.
A fact sheet about the legislation.

Transit worker and rider safety is a top priority for the Biden-Harris Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. Public transit is a safe form of transportation. Transit workers should expect a safe workplace and riders should expect a safe trip.
To help ensure the continued safety of our nation’s public transit systems, the Federal Transit Administration launched the Enhanced Transit Safety and Crime Prevention Initiative to provide information and resources to help transit agencies address and prevent crime on their systems and protect transit workers and riders.
FTA resources can be used by transit agencies to prevent and address crime in their systems and protect transit workers and riders. These resources also can be used for overtime pay for enhanced security personnel presence, mental health and crisis intervention specialists.
FTA has partnered with the National Transit Institute (NTI) to provide training for transit and bus operators on assault awareness and prevention. The
Click here for a list of courses from the NTI.
Click here for more information about the Enhanced Transit Safety and Crime Prevention Initiative.

H.R. 2, the Moving Forward Act, a massive $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill that contains provisions important to members of all crafts in the SMART Transportation Division and to sheet metal workers, passed through the U.S. House of Representatives by a 233-188 vote on July 1.
A major component of this bill is the INVEST in America Act that passed the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in late June.
H.R. 2 contains:

  • a two-person freight crew requirement
  • bus and transit operator safety measures
  • blocked-rail-crossing enforcement
  • a cross-border solution
  • yardmaster hours of service
  • additional funding for Amtrak
  • requirements for carriers to meet CDC guidelines and to provide personal protective equipment (PPE) to transportation workers

“This is an unprecedented step ahead for many of our union’s major issues through the legislative process,” SMART Transportation Division President Jeremy R. Ferguson said. “Our concerns were heard and addressed by the writers of this bill — safety for workers and communities alike in the bus and transit operator safety measures and in the crew-size provision, funding for Amtrak, and a number of other provisions intended to rebuild and transform the nation’s roads and rails.
“Federal agencies and big-pocketed lobbyists have tried to obstruct the essential protections that this bill provides to our members and to the people who work on, live near and use our nation’s transportation network. These representatives all had the foresight and initiative to move them forward.”
Ian Jefferies, CEO of the Association of American Railroads (AAR), earlier in the week had an op-ed published that was highly critical of the legislation, targeting the two-person crew portion and one that dealt with study of potential rail transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) specifically, saying the bill “woefully missed the mark.”
In the column, Jefferies also argued that legislators were “putting their collective thumbs on the scale” regarding railroad safety in regulating the crew-size safety issue.
The INVEST in America component of the Moving Forward Act was shepherded by House T&I Chairperson Peter DeFazio, an Oregon Democrat, through the committee June 18. He commented on July 1 after the bill’s passage:
“Passage of this bold, forward-thinking infrastructure bill is proof that finally, there is a majority of us in Congress who won’t accept the status quo and instead are willing to fight for a new vision that invests in our communities, addresses the climate crisis, and creates better opportunities for all. And we get there by putting millions of people to work in jobs that cannot be exported, while harnessing American-made materials, ingenuity, and innovation,” he said. “With the Moving Forward Act, we make it clear that our infrastructure does not have to be a product of the past, with crumbling roads and bridges, unreliable transit and rail networks, inequitable outcomes, and little regard to our changing climate and our changing economy. I challenge my Senate colleagues to join the House in thinking big and being bold on long-overdue investments not only in our infrastructure, but also in the communities and the people we all represent.”
Leaders in the SMART-TD National Legislative Department thanked DeFazio and the bipartisan group of Democrats and a trio of Republicans who supported H.R. 2.
“As if we need any additional evidence that elections matter, this result shows that the 2018 change of party control in the House made a difference,” National Legislative Director Greg Hynes said. “We appreciate those legislators who supported this legislation in its journey through the House. There is more work to be done and a path to be cleared for this legislation, and our membership is more than willing to put in the time to make legislators understand why the bill provisions are necessary.”
The Moving Forward Act now moves to the United States Senate, where, according to Politico.com, Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, called the bill “nonsense,” “absurd,” “pure fantasy” and vowed that it will die before getting to the White House, where the president has threatened to veto the bill.

March 20, 2020
All Members — SMART Transportation Division
Dear Brothers and Sisters:

Today, House Democrats released the text of a $500 billion five-year funding authorization bill that defines their vision for the future of transportation in America, as well as outlines their plans to refresh and renew the infrastructure of the nation’s surface transportation network.

The Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act is the result of countless hours of work by this Union on the Hill and in the halls of Congress. The INVEST in America Act reauthorizes funding set to expire Sept. 30, but more so, sets standards for safety, training, and transportation reform that have long been sought by the members of SMART Transportation Division including:

  • Two-Person Crews;
  • Operator Assault;
  • Yardmaster Hours of Service
  • a “Cross Border” fix.

Additionally, Amtrak would see its funding triple to $29 billion over the five-year period of the bill, allowing for expansion of national, state and regional routes and facility modernization. Funding for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program also would be increased to $7 billion to fund passenger and freight rail projects. Provisions for/or against the transportation of liquid natural gas (LNG) via rail tank cars, blocked railroad crossings, and excessive freight train length, among others, also have been included.

Our National Legislative Office has been hard at work in Washington, D.C., to convey our issues to both sides of the aisle in the U.S. House and Senate, and the provisions within this bill are the fruits of that labor.

Undoubtedly, House Democrats have heard our cries and have answered the call. By including our issues within the context of this bill, they have let America know that the only safe operation of a Class I freight train is with a two-person crew; that our bus drivers and operators have the right to a safe work environment; and that the public should be shielded from the risks that rail carriers will take in the name of greed.

But make no mistake, this bill still has a long road to travel and a lot of heavy-handed opposition standing before it in the Republican-controlled Senate. We will need all hands on deck to protect the provisions we have all fought so hard for to survive that journey.

I am asking you to please watch this bill as it moves through the legislative process and see who and what hurdles it faces. I’m asking you to please pay attention to the party affiliations of the individuals as the yeas and nays are registered when the bill is voted upon. And I am asking you to listen to the rhetoric and testimony that will affect its final appearance. Once the dust has settled, I will call on you to please support those who support you and your family’s well-being, and I firmly believe that picture will be crystal clear.

There are only two parties at the table. The Democrats wrote it into the bill, only the Republicans will take it out.

Fraternally yours,

 

 
 
 

Jeremy Ferguson
President — Transportation Division

ABOUT THE INVEST IN AMERICA ACT

A SMART TD member who drives for the Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) was shot multiple times on Monday afternoon at the Charlotte Transportation Center uptown and was hospitalized, according to WSOC-TV Channel 9 in Charlotte, N.C.
Police told WSOC that the suspect in the Charlotte shooting, T.B. Moss, has a criminal record and was taken into custody soon after the incident by authorities. Police said Moss may have specifically targeted the bus driver. She is expected to recover, according to media reports, but this incident again highlights the need for the implementation of increased safety measures for bus and transit operators as provided by the Transit Worker and Pedestrian Protection Act (H.R. 1139 and S. 436) so that our members can come home safely after a day’s work.
Please visit the TD Legislative Action Center to tell your elected officials to support this legislation to protect our union brothers and sisters, or better yet, contact them via phone or face-to-face.

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 President 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.