July 23, 2014

Bus operators too often face assaults

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.