Attacked bus drivers demand action from city (Kansas City)

The surveillance video is tough to watch. A man slugs a Kansas City bus driver while he’s driving. At one point, he loses control of the bus but is able to bring it to a stop. The driver falls down, dazed, as he tries to go after the man who assaulted him.

 Lonnie Woodward is that bus driver.

“While I’m pulling the bus over, blood is running down my shirt and the bottom of the bus is full of blood,” said Woodward.

Woodward has been driving buses for 12 years. He says this is the third time a passenger attacked him.

“Unless they stop these assaults, I promise you someone’s gonna get killed,” he said.

The union reached out to KCTV5 with concerns the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority wasn’t doing enough to protect their drivers.

“I wanted to make sure that this story was told,” says Jonothan Walker, president of the union that represents city bus drivers.

The union president also claims KCATA is dropping the ball when the assault cases go to court.

In Woodward’s attack, the passenger was arrested and the case went to court. Prosecutors and the judge never saw the crucial surveillance video.

“Where’s the video? Did the judge see the video and she said, ‘What video?’” Woodward recalls. “It’s absolutely everything. It’s vital for a judge to see the video.”

The man who punched Woodward got a plea deal. He served 30 days plus probation.

Woodward blames KCATA for not making sure the surveillance video made it to the hands of prosecutors.

“Not having that support system with the company makes you feel violated even more,” said Woodward.

The drivers’ union says it’s a scene that keeps playing out for those behind the wheel of city buses.

“Lonnie is unfortunately not an isolated case,” said Walker.

Walker says KCATA used to be very supportive of drivers, especially when a violent incident happened on the job. He says things have changed.

“All they care about is damage control,” said Walker. “So I’m not here to down them. I’m here to be real. That’s reality.”

When drivers and the union complained about lost evidence and a lack of support in their cases, Walker says KCATA will only get involved if the bus is damaged. If a driver is attacked, it’s a personal matter.

“We work for you and you are telling me that the only way you really want to get involved is if something is wrong with your bus. We work for you!” said Woodward.

KCATA says 19 drivers were attacked on the job last year. It’s a number some drivers dispute. There were 325 separate incidents where a driver had to pull over and call for help.

A number of employees reached out to KCTV5. Many didn’t want to do on camera interviews, fearing they would lose their jobs.

One employee who wanted to share her story, says when drivers are attacked they’re often blamed, even fired.

In Channel Harvey’s case, surveillance video shows a passenger yelling at her and then spits on her. Harvey restrains the unruly passenger for police who come and take the female passenger into custody.

Harvey was terminated, accused of provoking the passenger.

“I didn’t provoke anyone,” Harvey said.

Like Woodward’s case, Harvey’s surveillance video never made it to court.

KCTV5 took the drivers’ concerns to the KCATA to get answers.

“Safety and security are our number one core values,” says Sam Desue, senior vice president of the KCATA.

He and the agency’s chief of safety agreed to sit down with KCTV5. We immediately asked them about surveillance video not making it to court.

“We made efforts to get the video over there,” said Chief of Safety Lawrence Baker. “The video was sent over there. Somehow it was  misplaced and it may not have gotten before the courts.”

In February 2015, the KCATA announced it would be installing safety shields that would protect the driver from unruly passengers.

Over the past 12 months 25 have been installed. There are 255 buses. More than 90 percent of drivers are exposed. KCATA wants every bus to have one, but says that takes time and money.

The agency said it’s working to make other changes. Last month it was announced there would be two full time Kansas City police officers on staff to answer calls when a driver needs to control a passenger. KCATA said it wants to cut down on the amount of time a driver has to wait for help.

The agency also points out that just three months ago they started banning problem passengers. Right now six people are banned from city buses.

KCATA is also creating a safety manager position.

Woodward is hopeful the changes actually happen, but he still wants to see KCATA taking driver complaints seriously.

“You need to take this as serious as the drivers are when we are being assaulted,”
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OC Transpo tentative deal gives 2% + raises over next 4 years

OC TranspCFRA has obtained details of the tentative contract between the City of Ottawa and the union representing the city’s bus drivers.

This tentative deal, which would see the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279’s contract extended through until March 31st, 2020 and contains new premiums for overnight and evening shifts.

It would see drivers get a 2 per cent raise in each of the three first years and then a 2.25 per cent raise in 2019, the same pay increases negotiated a year ago but rejected by the membership.

Changes will also be made to the way drivers are assigned and paid for overtime duties. When overtime is posted, it will be offered as eight hour shifts and will be given to the most senior eligible employees that comply with the overtime guidelines.

It also includes an amendment to the Master contract for he Dental Insurance Plan to include reimbursement for the cost of dental implants. Drivers will also be allowed to wear pre-approved cargo pants as part of their uniforms.

The contract also includes a letter of understanding that provides a contract for operators for light rail transit, when the Confederation Line opens in 2018 – bus drivers who want to switch to light rail will need to apply and be trained.

There would be no retroactive adjustments to any components of the benefits plan.

ATU 279’s membership is scheduled to vote on the contract Thursday and Friday this week.

An attempt last year to extend the drivers’ contract was rejected by the membership, after the union president, Craig Watson, was accused of negotiating the deal in secret.

He was replaced as union local president by Clint Crabtree in the union’s elections last June.

That tentative deal also included 2 per cent pay increases in the first three years, and 2.25 per cent in the fourth year.

Canada to require bus and truck drivers to log hours electronically

MONTREAL – After years of study, the federal government says it will implement new safetyCanad and the US regulations in two years that are aligned with U.S. efforts to tackle fatigue among truck and bus drivers.

Drivers will be required to electronically record their hours on the road, says Transport Canada, marking a change from the mandatory paper logs that have been in use since the 1930s.

The regulations would cover cross-border and interprovincial travel and should be in place when similar rules in the U.S. come into force in late 2017, Transport Canada says.

The changes will be “operationally feasible for the industry” and aligned as much as possible with provinces and the U.S., said Transport Canada spokeswoman Natasha Gauthier.

“The technical specifications and standards for electronic logging device (ELD) technology may differ slightly between the U.S. and Canada, but should not be necessarily inconsistent,” she wrote in an email.

In making the changes, the Liberal government is following through on a commitment made last year by former transport minister Lisa Raitt. But the Conservatives did not set a timeline.

Industry players have been frustrated by how long it has taken Ottawa to change the regulations.

“We have been talking about this for 10 years,” said Motor Coach Canada CEO Doug Switzer.

“Ironically, the industry would like to see regulations on these kinds of things and it’s the government that is dragging their feet on it.”

Once implemented, commercial truck and bus drivers will be required to record their hours behind the wheel with devices that automatically record driving time by monitoring engine hours, vehicle movement, kilometres driven and location information.

The devices are estimated by the U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration to annually save US$1 billion in administrative costs, about 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries. Similar Canadian figures weren’t available.

The units also make it easier for provincial officials monitoring compliance and should address concerns that handwritten forms could be doctored.

The Canadian Trucking Alliance says the move towards electronic logs will bring the industry into the 21st century.

“Our industry shares its workplace with the public more than any of the other mode of transportation, yet the enforcement community is relying upon an archaic, outdated way of monitoring and enforcing what is arguably the most important safety rule,” said president David Bradley.

The devices, which cost an average of a couple of thousand dollars depending on type of unit, track hours on the road and rest periods to help companies to better manage their fleet.

Truckers and bus drivers can be behind the wheel for up to 13 hours in a day but must be off-duty for 10 hours, eight of which must be consecutive.

Bradley said about half of Canadian trucks have or are in the process of installing electronic devices.

TransForce, one of North America’s largest trucking companies, said the devices are already installed in all of its big fleets in the U.S.

“It’s just the small guys that are not ready yet but they will have to get ready for the end of 2017,” CEO Alain Bedard told analysts during a conference call Friday.

There is general acceptance among drivers, even though privacy concerns have been raised because the electronic devices allow companies to track their every move, says Leo Laliberte, assistant director of the freight division of Teamsters Canada, which represents about 25,000 truckers in the country.

In addition to reducing fatigue, the devices and anti-harassment provisions in U.S. regulations protect workers from being forced by companies facing driver shortages to work longer hours, he said.

Laliberte said the regulations in Canada should take into account the country’s unique challenges, including longer travel distances and fewer rest stops compared to the U.S.

“In Canada, you’ve got to plan like five hours ahead to make sure that you’ll be at a truck stop when your machine is going to tell you you won’t have any more hours,” he said.

Joanne Ritchie, executive director of the Owner-Operator’s Business Association of Canada, said small fleet owners also aren’t opposed to the adoption of new technology but favour a voluntary system that includes incentives.

Courtesy of CTV news

Police to patrol Winnipeg buses to prevent attacks

WinnipegBuses_PoliceWith attacks on Winnipeg, MB, bus drivers increasing, Local 1505 is calling for better protection for drivers and riders. The Local recently worked with the City of Winnipeg to launch a public education campaign including a new code of conduct aimed at improving safety on Winnipeg transit. Now the Winnipeg Police Board says police officers and cadets will ride and check buses and bus shelters as part of their regular duties. Foot patrol officers will also use the buses to get to and from their assigned areas. The Local says this new precaution not only protects bus operators, but it’s a safety measure for passengers, as well. Read more.