Transit Fleet Safety Identifying Important Components Term Paper

Pages: 6 (1811 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1+  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Transportation

Transit Fleet Safety

Identifying Important Components of a Transit Fleet Safety Program

Over the past several decades, transit managers across the country have been able to maintain and manage capital assets worth several hundred billion dollars that provide transportation services to tens of millions of large-city riders and compel several millions of others from turning the highways into the type of gridlock recently witnessed in the evacuation of Houston. Indeed, inadequate mass transit planning has been cited as one of the primary causes of the current "capacity breakdown" in many major American cities that is now viewed as a serious threat to economic growth (Guess, p. 14). Therefore, identifying important components of an effective transit fleet safety program has assumed more relevance that ever before. To this end, this paper will provide a discussion of the planning required for a transit system and it components. A discussion of an appropriate drug and alcohol program for fleet drivers is followed by a list of desirable qualifications for health and fitness for drivers. An explanation of the procedures for suspension and revocation of driving privileges and a list and explanation of security watchwords for drivers is followed by a discussion of the procedures necessary for a for Severe Alert (threat condition red). A summary of the research will be provided in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Planning Required for a Modern Transit System.

Guess (1990) reports that some municipalities have opted for a "shotgun" approach that simply throws resources at the problem until it is solved through the creation of multiple public bureaucracies that prove overlapping services to different types of passengers (inner-city, commuters, and the economically disadvantaged); these initiative were intended to improve service reliability for passengers and to prevent the recurrence of even more costly planning failures (Type I errors of commission) that have been made in the past by local transit planners (Guess, 1990, p. 13). There are also some fundamental logistical issues involved in the planning process that represent constraints as to how much information can be gathered and how it can be used; furthermore, there are a number of interest groups involved in the planning process that must be taken into account. For example, according to Menendez (1993), "Most of the [transit system planning] work is performed in an office, based on maps and other cartographic information. Political actors and interest groups try to influence the development of the planning process and its results to reflect their points-of-view on how to address the particular transportation problem" (p. 16). Figure 1 below illustrates the initial steps involved in the typical transit system planning process:

Figure 1. Schematic Representation of the Transit System Planning Process.

Information is also solicited from existing fleet drivers concerning their perceptions of the various corridors (Barfield & Dingus, 1998). Although the specific planning approach used differs from municipality to municipality, the primary purpose of the transit planning process remains the same: "The identification of which among several alternatives seems to be the more appropriate transit solution to address the transportation problems of a corridor" (Menendez, p. 18). Increasingly, urban transit planners are being assisted in the planning process by computer-assisted applications that help identify the most effective corridor routes in virtually any setting, notwithstanding the political implications involved (Stanney, 2002). No matter how sophisticated or effective the planning process, though, there remains a basic need for recruiting and retaining qualified drivers for a transit fleet; these issues are discussed further below.

Drug and Alcohol Programs for Fleet Drivers.

Drug and alcohol programs specifically designed for transit fleet drivers are not new, but they have been increasingly recognized as a vital component of an effective safety program. One of the first such initiatives was implemented in October 1990, by the Greyhound Corporation (Coombs & West, 1991). The results of this early drug and alcohol testing program showed that there was an unacceptable rate of positive drug tests among the company's drivers and its applicants; these findings brought a significant amount of pressure to bear on transit system companies that provided service to the traveling public to implement such testing programs (Coombs & West, 1991).

Today, a number of government agencies as well as public and private groups offer driver improvement programs designed for minor and repeat traffic offenders, and for fleet drivers and operators over age 55 years (Maney, 1995). The research also shows that this is money well spent, and at least 36 states now recognize such driver improvement programs for the reduction of traffic violation points or the provision of insurance premium discounts (Maney, 1995). Clearly, a fleet driver must be clean and sober to perform his or her duties safety and efficiently, but there are some other qualifications that have been found desirable as well; these are discussed further below.

Desirable Transit System Fleet Driver Qualifications.

Clearly, in a perfect world, any type of transit system will want to employ drivers who have good eyesight, a spotless driving record, and a conscientious approach to their jobs; however, in practice, transit companies are faced with the same types of problems in recruitment as other industries, but the type of services being provided by fleet drivers makes the establishment of desirable fleet driver qualifications absolutely necessary. Most transit systems provide various types of safety programs that are designed to improve the quality of the driver. According to Moses and Savage (1989), "A comprehensive program would include selection of driver personnel, driver training, award or incentive plans, general safety information, inspections, and road supervision of drivers. There is ample evidence that such practices improve safety" (p. 224). In addition, these authors report that to help ensure that transit companies recruit and retain drivers who meet their standards, they should establish rigid requirements for driver qualifications that are accompanied by extensive driver training, vehicle maintenance and inspection programs, and strict compliance with existing federal safety regulations (Moses & Savage, 1989).

Procedures for Suspension and Revocation of Driving Privileges.

Just as transit planning differs from locale to locale, various networks of local, regional, and state authorities has emerged that is responsible for administering and enforcing transit system regulations. For example, in the case of taxis, dial-a-ride services, and (in the few cities where they are operated) jitneys, local authorities are responsible for exercising control over entry, exit, pricing, and service features; however, safety issues generally remain the responsibility of the respective state for matters such as the licensing of drivers (Cervero, 1997). In addition, the enforcement of certification requirements, vehicle fitness, and driver qualifications is in some instances the responsibility of local police departments, in other cases, the transit authorities, and in still others with state regulators (Cervero, 1997).

List and Explanation of Security Watchwords for Fleet Drivers.

Among the common security watchwords typically encountered in transit systems include obeying all posted speed limits, ensuring the vehicle is safe to operate as well as ensuring the safety of any passengers and freight (Cervero, 1997). In view of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, though, a new set of standards has emerged as well. For example, a September 11, 2001 Supplement to Passenger Transport from the American Public Transportation Association, "America Under Threat: Transit Responds To Terrorism" (2001), recommends that fleet drivers use some "common sense" when it comes to security issues, and can help by "just being more intensely aware of their surroundings" (p. 9); these authors also report that a number of transit systems across the country have added additional transit police and additional security measures.

Today, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) (2005) recommends that everyone, including "those traveling in the transportation systems, should continue to be vigilant, take notice of their surroundings, and report suspicions items or activities to local authorities immediately" (p. 2). Finally, from an environmental safety perspective, the Environmental Protection Agency has mandated that fleet drivers avoid idling their engines to avoid contributing to the ozone problem (Mccaslin, 1998).

Procedures Required for a Severe Alert (Threat Condition Red).

Currently, the U.S. government has established the national threat level for the mass transit sector at an elevated risk, Code Yellow, for terrorist attack; this means that:

New long-term, sustainable security measures tailored to the unique design of each region's transit system are now in place throughout the mass transit sector;

Many transit systems will maintain a strengthened baseline level of preparedness; and,

Individual transit systems should vary these security measures at any given time in order to make it more difficult to predict the security regime at any given location (Threats & Protections, 2005, p. 2).

The DHS also recommends that all American citizens follow these steps when the Threat Condition reaches the most severe, or Red, level:

Complete all recommended actions at lower levels. Listen to local emergency management officials.

Stay tuned to TV or radio for current information/instructions.

Be prepared to shelter-in-place or evacuate, as instructed.

Severe Risk Expect traffic delays and restrictions. Provide volunteer services only as requested. Contact your school/business to determine status of work day (Citizen… [END OF PREVIEW]

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