Bus drivers demand changes, citing safety concerns

Bus drivers demand changes. (WRSP)

One pedestrian is killed every week in the U.S. in a bus crash due to the driver's blind spot, according to Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), a labor organization that represents employees in the public transit industry.

Bus drivers across the country are calling for new, re-engineered bus driver stations. Local chapters of the ATU are passing a resolution to demand change, and Springfield's chapter is one of them.

ATU's International President Larry Hanley said, "There are three major problems that have been engineered out of European and third-world country buses that continue to exist in North America."

The first is a 14-16 inch blind spot that ATU says results in pedestrian deaths, especially when buses make left turns. Another problem is the amount of assaults and attacks on bus drivers while they drive, and that there is no shield around them. Finally, ATU says buses are equipped with bad seats that leave bus drivers with disabilities and bad backs.

"Poor engineering is killing bus drivers, it's killing pedestrians, it's resulting in people being assaulted on buses that don't need to be assaulted, and it's breaking people's backs when they don't have to be broken," Hanley said.

However, the Sangamon Mass Transit District (SMTD) says while these issues may plague bigger cities, they don't impact the local community. SMTD's Managing Director Frank Squires said, "Do we have problems on the buses on occasions? Very, very rarely. We have procedures in place to react immediately if those problems happen."

The union, however, says it's a problem that could happen anywhere at anytime. "If a bus turns a corner and a pedestrian is walking across the street and happens to be hit by that bus in Springfield, then it's a big issue in Springfield," said Hanley.

SMTD says safety is a priority, and the agency is buying the best version of the industry standard that is required and approved by the federal government. "We do not decide to buy a bus that is the cheapest on the market or we can get the best deal on or we like the color of," explained Squires. "The federal government gives us minimum requirements that we have to adhere to."

ATU says re-engineering buses would cost about $300 for each one, but SMTD says the agency's buses cost about $370,000 and expect re-engineering costs to be much higher.

The union says it will go to lawmakers if issues remain unresolved.

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