Making driver protection a priority

Posted on August 13, 2010 by Janna Starcic - Also by this author

Tom Bregg was a bus operator for the Edmonton Transit System (ETS) in Alberta for 33 years when he was savagely beaten on Dec. 3, 2009 by a passenger, who argued with him over a fare dispute. Bregg is now permanently blind in his left eye and may never drive again, the Edmonton Journal reported.

While these instances of extreme violence against bus operators are rare, the fact is it happened, and Bregg's life will never be the same. Because the vehicle he was driving was equipped with video surveillance cameras, the footage taken from the vehicle was used in court to help prosecute the attacker.

Zero tolerance

Earlier this year, ETS implemented a zero tolerance policy for transit assaults that listed a number of steps to reinforce safe practices and a safe work environment, including enhanced training for operators to better help them deal with dangerous situations and reviewing bylaws to better address inappropriate behavior, with a potential result of increased fines for offenders.

New technology will also enhance the level of safety on ETS buses and trains, including a new radio system with a dedicated emergency channel; the continued installation and testing of operator shields; the use of CCTV on buses to better monitor activities; and the implementation of GPS and AVL devices.

While ETS' assault numbers have been relatively consistent over the past few years, says Ron Gabruck, ETS security director, he fears these issues have been historically underreported. "I'm trying to encourage reporting of any assault no matter how minor, so we can get a true picture of what that number is," Gabruck says.

The transit system has tracked an estimated 70 assault incidents within the past year — most of them minor, he says. There has not been any growth in serious assaults, which he says are extremely rare.

Verbal defense

One of the tools ETS is using to protect drivers is a verbal approach. The transit system provides operators with "verbal judo" training, which teaches them to recognize signs of frustration and anger and how to take them from a potential conflict to de-escalation.

In addition, Gabruck says they've installed transit inspectors at some locations and are working closely with the police on undercover operations. ETS is also looking into equipping their vehicles with operator shields (driver partitions).

When asked whether operators were allowed to fight back when attacked, Gabruck says, "We do not condone any physical activity, as the likelihood of our operators getting hurt is high." That being said, as an absolute last resort, the operator will have to make his own decision, he adds.

While a majority of bus operator assaults have been classified as minor incidents, it only takes one moment — like that day last December — to change someone's life. For those moments, transit systems need to make it a priority to protect their drivers.


View comments or post a comment on this story. (2 Comments)

More From the Editor's Blog Posts

July 17, 2019

Fighting against human trafficking is everyone's duty

U.S. traffickers have been shown to use all modes of transportation to find their next victims. Initiatives are being placed to combat trafficking and empower operators to act. 

June 26, 2019

Focusing on ‘abilities’ gives those with disabilities a ‘sense of purpose’

I recently learned about a program offered by Transport for London that provides “people with mild to moderate learning disabilities and those on the autism spectrum the chance to gain skills and work experience.”

February 12, 2019

Come Together to Shut Down the Shutdown, Fund a Transit Bill

As I write this, we are a few days away from another potential government shutdown if negotiations on border security are not hammered out.

December 19, 2018

New Year, New Hopes for the Motorcoach Industry

Hiring and retaining drivers is the greatest challenge facing motorcoach operators, according to 70% of respondents of METRO Magazine's 2019 Motorcoach Survey. The public transit industry is not immune to this issue either.

November 6, 2018

When voting 'yes' says 'no' to funding for transportation

I’m crossing my fingers that by the time you read this, the proposition repealing California’s gas tax and vehicle fees (SB 1) will have failed.

See More

Post a Comment

Post Comment

Comments (2)

More From The World's Largest Fleet Publisher

Automotive Fleet

The Car and truck fleet and leasing management magazine

Business Fleet

managing 10-50 company vehicles

Fleet Financials

Executive vehicle management

Government Fleet

managing public sector vehicles & equipment


Work Truck Magazine

The number 1 resource for vocational truck fleets

Schoolbus Fleet

Serving school transportation professionals in the U.S. and Canada

LCT Magazine

Global Resource For Limousine and Bus Transportation