July 28, 2014

Our priority is always the safety of members

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.