Yesterday we target=”_blank”read about how Muni sent letters to 54 of their operators without licenses, asking them to resolve the situation within two weeks or face termination. Only about a quarter of them came back with a valid driver’s license and returned to duty and 40 did not, despite the threat of termination. As of yet, none have yet been fired. Their contract specifically says having a Class B commercial driver’s license from the Department of Motor Vehicles is a requirement for the job, and if that requirement is not fulfilled, then they can be terminated. 30 drivers have had their licenses suspended because of medical reasons. For their license to be valid, they must pass a check-up once every two years at San Francisco General Hospital. If a potential dangerous health issues shows up, such as high blood sugar and an irregular heartbeat, then the license is immediately suspended until the operator can receive a follow up evaluation and clearance.
Since the suspensions took effect, and been brought to light, the agency has been blocked from hiring more drivers to fill positions. But starting this month, the agency wants to ramp up their efforts to resolve the problems of drivers who cannot drive and find ways to remove those whose problems are irresolvable. A total of 29 have gone on leave sometime in 2010, and 20 went on leave in 2009. Operators who cannot drive pose a very expensive problem for the agency and taxpayers, because they are occupying a position, and yet, even though most operators who are not working are not receiving pay, they still are receiving benefits. Taxpayers may have to pick up the bill if muni is unable to fill the open positions and forced to shuttle passengers. This problem affects all of us, not just the SFMTA.
This whole thing brings up an important point-unhealthy drivers actually operating Muni. So what if an unhealthy Muni driver, one who may have been cleared medically, has an accident due to an illness and causes injuries to San Francisco citizens? It could potentially cost taxpayers and the city unpredictable amounts in medical bills and/or settlements. Remember that light rail crash in 2009 when the driver seemed to have fallen asleep or passed out, crashed and injured 48 people? We don’t need to see that happen again. And don’t forget about all the lawsuits. At the beginning of this year the SFMTA approved settlements for lawsuits filed against the city stemming from an array of mistakes and misdeeds by the city’s bus, light rail and cable car drivers, as reported by ABC News. They totaled a bit under $2.5 million. The following is a breakdown payouts for those accidents for which Muni was involved:
• A woman from Texas was seriously injured when the cable car she was on jumped the tracks. She was knocked unconscious and broke a leg and several bones. She received more than $2 million.
• Another passenger from Texas and her son will receive $50,000 and Fremont man is going to receive $75,000.
• $52,000 went to a woman in a wheelchair whose foot was crushed by a Muni Bus wheel chair lift.
• $5, 214 went to a muni passenger who lamed into the bus’ windshield after the driver suddenly stopped short.
Muni not only needs to become fiscally efficient–it needs to become safer. And not only do drivers need to be properly trained in terms of safety, they need to be well enough physically to perform their jobs. Good luck to the SFMTA on sorting out this difficult problem.
If you or a loved suffered an injury while riding muni, please contact our firm for a free consultation. Our firm has over 10 years experience helping people who have been injured on public transportation, and we have the legal know how to get you the most compensation for your losses.