September 21, 2009

Cleveland RTA bans employees cell phone use

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) on Friday, implemented a policy prohibiting all employees from having a cell phone on their person while operating a bus or train.

The prohibition includes cell phones, smart phones, personal digital assistants such as BlackBerry devices, electronic music devices, wireless headsets or any other electronic communication or listening device.

“The use of cell phones and other similar devices is a growing problem, both nationally and here at home,” says Michael York, RTA’s Deputy General Manager of Operations. “It is a safety violation that we can neither tolerate nor afford.”

While on duty, operators must keep cell phones and other devices separate from their person, according to a statement issued by the RTA. They can be stored on-board in personal bags or purses. This reduces the temptation to respond to a phone call or check a text message.

Cell phones can only be used when the operator is on layover, the vehicle is stopped, the parking brake is set, and they have left the driver’s seat. The same rules apply if an operator has to use a personal cell phone to contact a dispatcher.

York says the policy carries a “zero tolerance.” Employees will be terminated for a first offense, if the cell phone use is witnessed by another RTA employee or supervisor, or photographic or video documentation is provided by a customer.

For years, RTA has prohibited cell phone use by bus and rail operators. The policy has been updated and strengthened several times, as the popularity of cell phones grew.

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