FTSN Quarterly Meeting – March 18, 2015 (8:00 am)

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Lisa Staes welcomed everyone to the meeting and asked attendees to introduce themselves. She then introduced our host, Eustache Mine of Gainesville RTS, who greeted the group and introduced RTS Director Jesus Gomez, who also extended a welcome to the group. Mr. Mine then gave a brief overview of the new RTS facility. Reports from the various FTSN committees followed.

Committee Reports and Discussion

After introductions of members and guests, the following discussion took place:

Collisions Committee discussion – Dean Kirkland-McMillan, Citrus Connection

Dean stated that the Collisions Committee did not have anything specific to report or discuss at this time.

Distracted Driving Committee discussion – Lydia Chung, PalmTran

Lydia began the discussion by pointing out that distracted driving has some overlap with fatigue and health issues, and cited a recent incident at PalmTran in which an operator, who apparently had not eaten that day, fainted and crashed into a house. Lydia noted that there is plenty of discussion regarding sleep apnea, but that there are a multitude of ailments that can affect operators.

Victor Wiley pointed out that meeting schedules is important for transit agencies, but that it is just as much about safety and customers. He reminded the group that when it comes to reasonable suspicion, agencies are required NOT to send drivers out on the road if there is any doubt as to the driver’s ability to safely perform his or her job duties. He also noted that when health issues meet certain criteria, agencies are authorized to push for additional medical tests. Just because 14-90 specifies that medical examinations occur every two years does not mean an agency has to wait two years to push for more testing if there is good reason to suspect other health issues are affecting an operator’s abilities to do the job safely. In light of this, he emphasized how important it is for agencies to provide specific job duties of operators to medical examiners, and also that medical examiners be qualified to evaluate specific health conditions.

Jim Egbert mentioned that when an operator involved in an incident claims to have no memory of the incident, PSTA will refuse to put the operator back behind the wheel until he or she can provide an official medical diagnosis guaranteeing that such an incident will not happen again.

Don Worrell mentioned that several operators at StarMetro have sleep apnea and often forget to take the readings from the machine to give the medical examiner to certify that they have been following proper treatment protocols. Someone else mentioned the problem of new employees coming in for part-time work and not being able to afford the sleep apnea testing.

At this point, Victor urged the group that if issues arise with regard to medical examiners or unions, to please have them contact him. He also mentioned that FMCSA has a national registry of sleep apnea medical examiners that may be helpful, but that agencies should make certain that medical examiners are following the agency’s standards; FMCSA standards do not apply to transit. He reminded the group that FTA is talking about possibly adopting FMCSA standards and regulations with a modification; therefore, those agencies that already use FMCSA standards have nothing to worry about. Others should be aware of this possible change and stay informed.

Bus Operator and Passenger Safety Committee discussion – Stephen Berry, LYNX

Steve began the discussion by describing a recent incident at LYNX in which an operator (who has been terminated three times previously) and a passenger had a disagreement over a bike. The disagreement escalated to an argument, and instead of finding a way to de-escalate the situation, the operator actually approached the passenger and brandished a knife which he had hidden in his hole-punch case. Although LYNX has a no-weapons policy, it is an issue of proof and HR will not allow management to request an operator to empty his pockets during questioning about the incident. Although this is one very severe incident, it points to the larger problem of whether operators are routinely concealing weapons or other prohibited items in hole-punch cases.

Several suggestions were made for how to mitigate this problem. One agency representative mentioned changing the design of the dispatch window to have better contact with operators for uniform and reasonable suspicion checks, another attendee mentioned using hole-punch holsters that only have room for the hole-punch, and someone else mentioned the benefit of going to a transferless system or using smart cards in order to avoid the need for hole-punches. It was also pointed out that if an operator wants to carry a weapon, they will probably find a way, regardless of hole-punches. Diana emphasized the importance of having strong visual contact for recognizing any reasonable suspicion or health issues.

Victor pointed out that an agency will never be able to eliminate 100 percent of risks; it’s not going to be perfect, but we need to do what we can to mitigate as much as possible against those risks: don’t make it easy for operators to commit violations, and make sure the penalty is stiff when violations occur. He also mentioned the importance of balancing policy with privacy and trust, but since ultimately the responsibility falls on the trainers and management at the agency, it is very important to adequately train senior personnel on how to conduct reasonable suspicion contact/interactions.

Roberta Yegidis mentioned that part of the dispatch training she has been doing covers the issue of how to determine fitness for duty. She emphasized that this means having adequate contact time with operators, and that being unfit for duty doesn’t necessarily involve drugs or alcohol; impairment comes in many forms, and people are often simply too hesitant to speak up if something seems off. This underscores the importance of having support from upper management so they are given the necessary authority to feel comfortable making such decisions. This is so important because the fitness-for-duty check is often the only opportunity for contact with operators; after that, they’re off running their routes.

Eric Fritz mentioned that when he was director of a school district, walk-arounds were a requirement for the pre-trip inspection.

Bill Morris suggested that, although agencies sometimes have their hands tied when it comes to terminating problem employees, it doesn’t mean those employees can’t be taken off the road and given other, less desirable duties. Roberta pointed out that, unless something is addressed specifically in the union contract, how to handle this type of scenario is completely up to upper management.

Victor suggested that agencies make sure their HR departments are aware of Florida Statute 341.061, which requires agencies to certify to the State that they are operating a safe agency. He also pointed out that this will soon be escalated to the national level and become a federal requirement as well. Because the law supersedes any union contract, and because failure to comply with the law will likely result in fines and enforcement, HR departments have a responsibility to become familiar with the law.

Fatigue Committee discussion – Don Worrell, StarMetro

Don began the discussion by noting the problem of drivers trying to absorb as much overtime as possible and reiterated the importance of operators being educated on 14-90.

Dave Kelsey pointed out that it can be very helpful to work proactively with the scheduling department to reduce split shifts as much as possible.

Victor noted the importance of looking at spread time and determining how many hours an operator is committing to the agency, not just how many hours they are driving, and that agencies should also be considering the distance operators are driving from home to work. Looking for trends and then identifying target areas for improvement is how to bring about effective change.

Dave mentioned a phenomenon that MAP-21 SMS language refers to as the “organizational accident,” in which the agency effectively sets operators up for accidents through bad scheduling, policies, etc., and reminded the group that management has a large responsibility for safety and that it is unfair to hold operators responsible for accidents caused by bad policies.

At Victor’s request, Roberta provided a quick overview of SMS, stating that it is a theory that emerged from route cause analysis in the aerospace industry that safety is systemic, that everyone in the organization has an opportunity and a role to play in safety, and that organizations should recognize vulnerabilities and be proactive to anticipate and address issues before they occur. Lisa mentioned that a perfect example of where agencies can fail is by not building enough rest/recovery time into route structuring, not allowing for “real life.”

Jim mentioned the problem of the “culture of rush” and that if a route hasn’t been updated in the last five years, enough will have changed that the schedule is probably obsolete. Management is always going by the “time is money” philosophy, so they are resistant to adding extra time, but it is sometimes unavoidable.

At this point, Steve brought up another incident at LYNX involving a collision between a train and an articulated bus. When management walked back through the chain of events leading to the accident, they found mismanagement through the entire process. The driver had only been exposed to 20 minutes total of articulated driver training time. His inexperience with the specific vehicle he was driving caused him to misjudge the length of the vehicle, leaving the rear of the bus sitting on railroad tracks. In addition, he was assigned to a UCF late-night shift, and became distracted by students. A systemic failure occurred. He pointed out that systems are only as good as the people who make up the system.

Lisa mentioned that SMS has great application to Steve’s description of what took place, and that agencies should look at leading indicators (what happened leading up to the accident) to mitigate future risk before it becomes another accident.

Roberta mentioned that it is possible to build certain safety controls into software systems, e.g. software that will not allow the booking of an operator whose hours have been exceeded.

Another attendee pointed out that the newest or most difficult routes are often assigned to drivers fresh out of training, to which Don responded that, although the driver may have trained on such routes, he or she may not have actually driven the route for three months, and if an operator can’t drive the most difficult routes, the agency probably should not keep that operator.

Safety Training Committee discussion – Lisa Staes, CUTR

So that CUTR can move forward with developing additional safety training courses, Lisa asked the group to assist with prioritization of the following training topics:

  1. Fitness for duty/fatigue management
  2. CBT for distracted driving (beyond what is currently covered in the Wireless Distractions Training Resource Program)
  3. CBT for assault prevention/de-escalation techniques with a side of customer service

There was consensus among the group to prioritize the CBT for distracted driving. Lydia Chung agreed to chair a volunteer working group (Dean Kirkland-McMillan, Bill Knieriem, and Jim Egbert) to flesh out the details of what a distracted driving CBT should cover

Lisa informed the group that the CBT training on 14-90 specific to bus operators, which comprises six modules, is ready for release and will soon be in the LMS for operators to take. Operators must complete each module with a score of 80 percent or higher in order to move to the next module. Victor stressed the importance of operators to be familiar with 14-90, since it regulates their employment.

Drug and Alcohol Program Updates – Diana Byrnes, CUTR

Diana reminded everyone that applications are still being accepted for FDOT’s inaugural Drug and Alcohol Testing Program Management Certification Program. She also informed the group that FTA’s National Conference takes place April 28-30 in Atlanta this year. This is a free conference and a great resource for information, as all auditors are there doing policy reviews.

Annual Transit Safety Summit

Lisa summarized the current topics for this year’s Summit:

  • Fatigue awareness
  • Cyber security in transit
  • APTA industry standards/voluntary bus assessments
  • Observations/lessons learned from TSA voluntary baseline assessments for security enhancements (BASE)

There were no suggestions for additional topics.

PDW (safety-related topics)

Lisa informed the group of the following safety-related sessions and other items of interest that will be offered at the PDW:

  • Compliance Track
    • Preparing for Triennial Reviews
    • FDOT’s State Management Plan
    • FTA and FDOT Compliance
      • Bus System Safety/Security Reviews
      • Substance Abuse Management
    • Other sessions of interest
      • Conflict Avoidance – the Art of Maintaining Control
      • Reducing Absenteeism
      • Communication Strategies for Managers
      • Dispatching Best Practices
      • Understanding ADA (NTI)
      • Leading as a Mid-Manager in Today’s Public Transportation Environment
    • Networking opportunities
      • Evening reception on Monday, 6/1
      • Dinner off-site at the Columbia on Tuesday, 6/2 (transportation provided thanks to HART)
      • Monday and Tuesday nights – the “Coffee House” from 8:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Other FTSN Member Discussion

FDOT Safety-Related State Management Plan Updates –Victor Wiley, FDOT

Victor advised the group on how to be prepared and what to expect with regard to FDOT safety audits. He began by pointing out that, although FDOT districts are required to conduct reviews at least every three years, the process has been less than ideal in the past and improvements have been made so that the reviews will be more effective. He reminded the group that this is an audit and advised agencies to be prepared and to review themselves and track/identify trends to see what needs to be addressed in advance of the audit. Victor stressed the following points that agencies should remember with regard to auditors and the review process:

  • In order to be qualified to conduct an audit, contractors should:
    • Be well-versed in 14-90 and transit in general
    • Be able to identify best practices as well as problems in their reports
    • Be able to offer advice and recommendations to agencies
  • In order for an audit to be effective, contractors should:
    • Take adequate time to conduct the review
    • Ask to see operators’ CDLs
    • Monitor the agency’s training programs
    • Ride routes to see training in action and check for proper protocol such as pre-trip inspections
  • Contractors will request an agency’s SSPP and any supporting documentation
  • All supporting documentation must be referenced in the SSPP; if not referenced, it will be treated as if it does not exist
  • Agencies should direct contractors as to the location of supporting documentation
  • Contractors should review the SSPP off-site, and then follow up with requests for additional information

Victor also urged agencies to be open with FDOT about concerns, because open communication ultimately helps FDOT develop the best rules, regulations, and training. Lisa added that there will be a support structure as well, in the form of training/technical assistance on both the front and back end of things, e.g. how an SSPP should look, what to include, how to address any findings, etc.

Eustache asked if FDOT would require contractors to review the previous year’s report to see how the agency has addressed any problem areas or concerns. In response, Victor agreed to remind the Department that reviewing the report from the previous year in order to follow up on corrective actions is an important and necessary part of the review process.

CUTR Safety Research Project Update

Strategies to Prevent, Reduce, and Mitigate Bus Collisions, Technical Memorandum #1 – Bill Morris, CUTR

Bill provided a status update of the project, and reminded everyone that the purpose of the research was to come up with a set of integrative, actionable strategies that agencies can use for the prevention, reduction, and mitigation of bus collisions. He discussed the evolution of the project, noting that in-person interviews had become web-based questionnaires, which has worked well. He also explained that subsequent site visits would be customized based upon the answers to the questionnaire, followed by exit interviews on the third day.

Passenger Assaults Project – Lisa Staes, CUTR

Lisa gave a brief update on the data collection, site visits, and in-person interviews that are taking place for the passenger assaults project that she and Jan Davis are working on at CUTR. For this project, a total of 20 transit properties will be visited.

  • Site visits have been completed at:
    • Manatee County Area Transit
    • Sarasota County Area Transit
    • Polk County Transit Services Division
    • Lakeland Area Mass Transit District
    • Collier Area Transit
    • Charlotte County Transit
    • Veolia/TransDev (Hardee, Highlands, Okeechobee, DeSoto Counties)
  • Site visits that will be completed by mid-April
    • LYNX
    • Hillsborough Area Regional Transit
    • Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority
    • Pasco County Public Transportation
  • Site visits that will be completed by the end of April/early May
    • Miami Dade Transit
    • Broward County Transit
    • PalmTran
  • Site visits that will be completed by the end of May
    • Jacksonville Transportation Authority
    • Gainesville RTS
    • Votran
  • Site visits that will be completed in June
    • Star Metro
    • ECAT

TSA Voluntary Base Line Reviews – Dave Kelsey, HART/Jim Egbert, PSTA

Dave described a TSA baseline security evaluation that both HART and PSTA voluntarily agreed to take part in several years ago. Initially, TSA came to the two properties with 17 topic areas they wanted to cover. Over the next several years, Dave and Jim helped TSA to refine their system, and TSA came back with a revised topic area checklist that primarily examines policies and procedures already in place. HART and PSTA scored 98% and 99%, respectively. Dave and Jim advised that, although these reviews are totally voluntary, it is likely that at some point they will become mandatory. Participating on a voluntary basis is a great way to get information from “the horse’s mouth” on what will be evaluated. They reminded the group that it is a baseline security assessment, not an audit. TSA will walk your agency through the process and explain everything, your score remains confidential, and you may even win an award.

There are 138 agencies across the nation that have participated, 47 have received TSA’s Gold Standard Award, and only three have received it twice- HART, PSTA, and WMATA. Therefore, Tampa Bay can be considered one of the most transit-secure regions in the nation- in large part because of the access to information provided during the voluntary TSA security review. Eustache commented that, depending on the situation, TSA will also provide training (RTS purchases mirrors for checking under buses for bombs, and was therefore eligible to receive training). Dave and Jim’s advice to agencies: do not to be paranoid if TSA contacts you for a voluntary security assessment- just go for it!

FTSN Website Modifications – Jennifer Flynn, CUTR

Jennifer gave a quick overview of some new content that will soon be available on the FTSN website (www.floridatsn.org), including SSO-related information that will cover all fixed-guideway modes operating in the state of Florida, expanded information on transit safety laws/regulations across all 50 states, and additional visual content such as new photographs.

Ed Clark suggested that it would be helpful if the website included best practices or templates of what others have done so that smaller agencies, where people often wear many hats, can learn from what has worked for others.

Other Topics from FTSN Members

Eustache asked if there was any new information on the LYNX’s challenge to public requests for video surveillance on buses.

Steve agreed to provide a debriefing at the next FTSN quarterly meeting, when he has more specific information to provide.

Dave stated that bus video surveillance can only be obtained through discovery, i.e. through subpoena as part of an official criminal case.

Lydia mentioned that at PalmTran, there have been public information requests relating to lost-and-found issues, that this creates a heavy burden, but that she has been told that agencies have no choice because public information requests must be granted.

Jim stated that bus video surveillance is a security issue, and therefore PSTA only provides video to law enforcement. He added that even the union cannot have a copy of the video; they may only view it on site.

FTSN Tours

The meeting concluded with a guided tour of the impressive new RTS facility, complimentary transport to lunch via RTS, and an RTS route tour. Many thanks to Eustache Mine (and RTS) for being a gracious and inspiring host for the Florida Transit Safety Network quarterly meeting.