Metro Transit bus driver fired after causing four accidents in less than three years

Categories: Metro Transit
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Ever wonder what it takes to lose your job as a Metro Transit bus driver? Apparently, causing four accidents in less than three years will do the trick.

SEE ALSO: "Jazz Man" bus driver transferred for giving out his phone number

An unnamed bus driver who lost his job for exactly that contested his termination through his union, but last month, an arbitrator upheld Metro Transit's decision to oust him.

Here, straight from the arbitrator's ruling, is background about the bus driver's situation:
The Grievant was hired as a full-time operator in 2007. He was charged with a "responsible accident" occurring on 2/8/10, when his bus rear-ended a car that stopped at an intersection. Grievant reported that the bus slid into the rear of the car. Following established procedure, a Safety Specialist (SS) investigated the event and determined that the operator could have prevented the accident. The Grievant's manager issued a warning for a safety violation, and scheduled refresher training in the Safety Keys to "assist him in again being able to operate a transit vehicle accident free".

The Grievant was charged with a second responsible accident occurring on 4/16/12, when he was pulling out of a bus stop and side-swiped a car on the left side of the bus moving in the same direction. Grievant claimed that the car speeded up to overtake the bus and the car struck the bus. The Metro Transit Police incident report stated that a witness reported that both drivers appeared to see each other and both appeared to be attempting to get ahead of the other. After an investigation that included reviewing the video tapes from the bus cameras, the SS determined that: the car pulled up beside the bus stopped at the traffic signal; the bus lane was blocked by a parked car; the bus veered to the left and struck the car traveling beside it. The SS concluded that by properly checking his mirror, the Grievant could have waited for the car to pass before entering that lane, and so he was responsible for the accident. The SS recommended one-on-one remedial training.

The Grievant's manager issued a record of warning, noting that this was the second responsible accident within a three-year period, and that his performance was dangerous and unacceptable. The Grievant refused to sign an acknowledgement of receiving a copy of the warning and grieved it through the second step of the grievance procedure, maintaining that the accident had not been preventable. The grievance was denied and dropped. On 6/1/12 the Grievant received one-on-one remedial training; the instructor noted that the Grievant needs to "stay in mirror more when doing lane changes" and that they worked on "being more patience" (sic).

The Grievant was charged with a third responsible accident occurring on 9/11/12, when his bus rear- ended a vehicle on I-94. The Grievant reported that the driver cut him off and slammed on her brakes, and he stopped quickly and just barely touched the rear end of the vehicle with the bike rack. The SS concluded that a 4-second following distance would have prevented this accident, and that by looking ahead the Grievant could have seen that traffic was stopping.

The Grievant was charged with a fourth responsible accident occurring on 11/2/12 when he was attempting to merge onto Interstate 94 heading east from the Jackson Street entrance in St. Paul. The Grievant first reported that a garbage truck rear-ended the bus. A district supervisor on the scene reported that: the Grievant claimed that he was in the right lane and the truck was changing from the middle lane to the right lane and hit the back of the bus; and the truck driver stated that he was going about 55 mph in the right lane and the bus came down the ramp and moved into his lane, hitting the right front corner of the truck with the left rear corner of the bus. The SS reported that during the safety conference the Grievant stated "I misjudge the distance from the bus to the truck for clearance", and the truck driver "drove his truck right into the driver's side of my bus". The SS noted that: the Grievant "neglected to utilize his left turn signal while merging left onto the highway"; he "should drop back to avoid traveling in the blind spot to avoid a collision"; and it was his "responsibility to merge safely into traffic".

An investigative hearing to determine what action to take was held where the Grievant had Union representation. The Grievant stated that he saw the truck to his left as he was coming down the ramp and as he was merging the truck backed off to allow him to merge but he miscalculated the distance and got over to the left lane too quickly. The Grievant was notified of the employer's intent to terminate his employment and invited to a meeting to hear the evidence against him and to offer any information supporting why he should not be discharged. At this meeting the Grievant admitted that he "made a mistake" and asked for "mercy . . . any punishment" that would allow him to keep his job. He also stated: "When I'm out there driving I have a hard time not allowing the schedule to influence my driving and I'm not using it as an excuse. I need someone to help to deal with making my schedule second so I can become a safe driver . . . ". The Grievant was discharged effective 12/7/12 and a grievance was promptly filed asking that he be returned to work and made whole.
The union made a case to the arbitrator that the driver should be reinstated because all of the incidents in question were very minor and only 50 percent of current Metro Transit drivers have gone three years without an accident. They also argued that the fired driver "has been an excellent employee with no other issues and the three-year period for counting the accidents was almost up," adding that he "has an outstanding record of working extra shifts, reporting on time, several customer commendations, and no other disciplinary actions."

But the arbitrator ruled that the policy is the policy and the facts of the matter are the facts of the matter.

"It is undisputed that: the Grievant had notice of this policy; fair investigations were held; the Grievant had four chargeable accidents within a three-year period; and he was warned at each step of progressive discipline that his employment could be in jeopardy," the ruling says. "The Grievant not only had four accidents within a three-year period, but three accidents within a seven-month period, despite being retrained and cautioned on the same problem that caused his fourth accident - failing to adequately check that the lane to his left was open and available before moving into it."

So yes, the guys and gals driving Twin Cities buses can lose their jobs -- they just have to do an impressive amount of F-ing up in a relatively short amount of time first.

h/t -- Jonathan Blake

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at arupar@citypages.com.

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9 comments
swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

You couldn't pay me enough to drive an MTC bus.  That said, I've seen some bad bus-driving.  Most of what I've seen on the freeway has been the fault of car drivers, cutting in front of buses and slamming on the brakes, or failing to properly yield.  On city streets, it's more of a mixed bag.  On busy 2-way, single-lane streets like the South part of Lyndale, Nicollet or Chicago, you see a lot of issues with buses pulling in and out of stops while cars try to judge whether or not they can make the light before it either turns red or the bus pulls back out.  In those situations I've seen a few busdrivers being either inattentive or overly aggressive.

It sounds like this driver wasn't a very good driver, but it's also a very hard job to be good at.  Not every job is a good fit for everyone.  This driver should go do something else.  And that's not even a knock on the driver.  I couldn't do it.

blinkersfool
blinkersfool

I think Metro Transit should do more training on blinker usage.  I completely understand the yield to buses leaving the bus stop law, but I cant' safely yield when you don't signal your move back into traffic.  This happens way too often.

ReedFischer
ReedFischer moderator

I hear he also drives Pedal Pubs on weekends

JL1969
JL1969

I'm not surprised at the outcome, since MCTO presumably has a clear policy about termination, just as we do in the military.

But to end the article with "...they just have to do an impressive amount of F-ing up..." is just unprofessional reporting.  That's my opinion anyway.

kennyX
kennyX

And this is news because............................?

attystp
attystp

Metro Transit drivers seem to equate the law that tells a driver to "yield to the bus leaving a stop" with "all vehicles need to yield to the bus all of the time."  I can't tell you how many times I have been cut off or almost sideswiped when a bus driver just decides to change lanes without regard to the other traffic.   

barbertj23
barbertj23

@kennyX 

I believe Kenny X is Aaron Rupar trying to stir up movement in the comment section. Similar to how a singer for a band will encourage moshing in the front rows.

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@barbertj23  You aren't the first person to make that suggestion.  And Kenny has told other posters that he has a "special arrangement" with the site.  If you browse other Voice Nation websites, you will see that each one has posters who act as sanctioned click-bait trolls.  Seems like a business model to keep ad rates up.

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