U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, introduced S.3215 on July 16, a companion bill to the Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act.
In June, Congresswoman Grace F. Napolitano (D – Calif.) and Congressman John Katko (R — N.Y.) introduced the original bill, H.R.6016, that would enhance the safety of bus drivers nationwide.
“Ensuring a safe work environment for transit operators is crucial to improving our transportation system for both passengers and employees,” Van Hollen said. “This legislation makes a long overdue push to improve safety conditions for these men and women — and invests the resources to make it happen.”
Immediately upon the legislation’s introduction, SMART Transportation Division leaders announced their support for the bill, and they also support Van Hollen’s bill.
“There have been gruesome, inexcusable acts that have been committed on our bus members including shootings, stabbings and beatings, and little has been done about it. We need adequate driver shields and mandatory de-escalation training,” said National Legislative Director John Risch. “Our pledge is to continue to work with Congress and the administration to ensure all bus operators are given the protection they deserve.”
Countless news reports of incidents involving spitting, beatings and stabbings by unruly passengers have left SMART TD bus drivers as victims of frequent violence. A college student critically injured in a stabbing April 9 while he rode on a bus owned by Montebello Bus Lines (MBL), whose workers are represented by Local 1701, died in June of his injury.
“Every day we hear major news stories of bus drivers being beaten, having items thrown at them, spitted upon, and verbally abused. LA Metro, for instance, which operates in my district experiences approximately 130 assaults on bus drivers per year,” Napolitano said in a news release. “This is an unthinkable experience for drivers, and it also has major safety impacts on passengers, motorists and pedestrians, as these assaults often occur while the bus is moving.”
Both the House and Senate legislation require transit agencies to develop Bus Operations Safety Risk Reduction Programs by implementing physical barriers to prevent operator assaults, de-escalation training for bus drivers, driver-assisted technology to reduce accidents and modified bus specifications or retrofits to reduce visibility impairments.
“There is no higher priority than operator safety. On a daily basis, we see reports of drivers getting assaulted and having their lives irreversibly changed because they were behind the controls just doing their jobs,” said SMART TD Bus Department Vice President Calvin Studivant. “This critical legislation will significantly improve bus driver safety through risk reduction programs and other safety requirements.”
The Bus Operator and Pedestrian Protection Act and its Senate companion bill continue to build on SMART TD’s efforts to protect bus drivers and eliminate operator assaults, but the effort of members is needed to get political leaders to support the legislation via the Legislative Action Center.
H.R. 6016 as of July 24 had 36 cosponsors — two Republicans and 34 Democrats. It has been referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
S.3215 has been referred to the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and co-sponsors are being sought.