In recent days the media as well as TriMet have made repeated statements about the need for increased safety in the transit system. Despite TriMet’s failure to involve the Union in these safety discussions we need to be responsive to these safety concerns. The news reporters and TriMet have negatively highlighted those very few operators who work every possible hour of overtime. Reporters questioned me about the safety of this practice. I explained that TriMet has not hired a new driver in over two years, thus making high levels of overtime a necessity if the buses are to run on time. That was not satisfactory and the talk continues about “safety.” By the same token, TriMet has just released a safety study that claims safety should be the first priority of the agency and that position was recently stated by the TriMet board. In response to these stated concerns, we recommend that bus and rail operators do the following:
1. Keep your overtime to a bare minimum since reporters repeatedly questioned whether bus and rail operators are competent to drive beyond 12 hours.
2. Bus operators are disabled and die younger than people working in any other civilian profession. They have particularly high incidences of cancers and diseases related to the failure to regularly use the restroom. You have a legal right to stop the vehicle and use the restroom whenever you need to. Please, please, do this. We are tired of going to funerals of operators who should have lived longer.
3. Rail operators are being injured on a daily basis by equipment that other transit agencies have rejected, for example, Denver. If you encounter any of the following, call control and state you need a new train to operate: pain from motoring drum handle, arm rest configuration, non-functioning seat.
4. Additionally, rail operators are receiving electrical shocks out on the alignment. In some cases, the shock has been severe enough to kill the operator if that operator were to have a physical vulnerability. If you receive an electrical shock, make a record of that by calling control and call the Union immediately. If necessary, we will call for a safety stand down because this situation is life-threatening.
5. Defects in the cameras, LCD monitors, mirrors and general sight configuration on the Type 4 trains means the rail operators are driving those trains “blind.” If you find your train does not allow you to adequately see passengers, traffic or platforms cease operation, make a record of that problem on the radio and call the Union immediately. If necessary, we will call for a safety stand down because this situation is life-threatening.
6. Despite knowing for months that there is a “black out zone” near PSU, TriMet has not fixed the problem. This black out zone means that controllers cannot tell whether trains and streetcars are on a collision course. Given that problem we urge you to slow your speed in this area so that you will have enough space in which to stop your train or streetcar should a collision be imminent.
President- Business Representative
7. Despite one fatality and repeated requests, TriMet continues to operate the Gillig buses that have a large windshield pillar obstructing the operator’s vision during left hand turns. TriMet has also failed to provide special training that addresses the problem or take these buses off routes that have left turns. Both are solutions that other transit agencies have used. Therefore, if you find your left turn vision obstructed, contact dispatch to make a record of this, write up an equipment slip and call the Union immediately.
8. TriMet’s solution to its financial situation is not to cut back on elaborate capital projects (we all know that was where the failed bond levy money was really supposed to go). Instead, TriMet has created impossible bus route run times that make bus operators run late. Things have gotten so bad that many routes are always late. It is not up to you to fix that problem by jeopardizing your health and your passengers’ and the public’s safety by trying to make the route run on time. You should choose to run late if running on time means you never get to use the restroom or you have to exceed the speed limit.
Union workers are the hardest working and lowest paid employees at TriMet. Unlike management, union workers show up for work on Fridays and don’t spend all day drinking coffee in back-to-back meetings, listening to themselves talk. You are out there on the road providing the service that has brought honor to TriMet and to our community. You do enough. Please do not jeopardize your health or the safety of yourself, your passengers or the public.