There are hundreds of mass transit authorities across the country. Safety concerns in this industry not only revolve around safe transport of customers utilizing these systems, but also the people who support day-to-day operations. Most individuals enjoy the conveniences of mass transit systems without giving a second thought to fleet maintenance, vehicle operator training, heavy construction, or security efforts. There are a plethora of safety initiatives that go on in front of and behind the scenes to provide safe transportation to the public.
Transit authorities can service multiple cities or states, making them subject to a variety of minimum safety standards outlined by these local or state jurisdictions. Additionally, safety cultures within mass transit authorities are greatly impacted by numerous federal and/or state safety regulations or oversight agencies, and tort liability acts. In some instances, public sector authorities can be held to relatively low limits of liability. This kind of protection can present challenges for safety professionals in implementing safety programs that require significant investment.
Mass transit authorities allocate a great deal of resources for vehicle operators. Among other things, these resources address vehicle operations and occupational hazards training, drug testing programs, and public relations. Transporting passengers is the core of what all mass transit agencies do, and they must ensure that this primary objective is done in a safe manner.
Training of vehicle operators, both rail and bus, can be one of the most critical components in the transit industry. Vehicle accidents constitute a majority of the industries' liability claims, including associated Workers' compensation cases. When it comes to transportation safety concerns, most resources come in the form of vehicle operations training. The industry uses a variety of programs that range from in-house certification processes to nationally recognized training programs, such as the Smith System®. Typical training programs include extensive classroom, as well as behind the wheel, training.
Some larger transit systems integrate live motion simulators into operator training. These simulators are full-size mockups of bus and rail vehicle cabs that utilize virtual reality technology to simulate operation of vehicles in adverse weather conditions or city/suburban environments. The systems are so sophisticated they can simulate the feel of a jerking steering wheel when a bus has a flat tire. Simulators help operators with problem areas of their driving, such as judging a turning radius in a bus, multiple times without jeopardizing public or operator safety. Also, these simulators have been used by safety professionals to perform accident reconstructions.