Riding the T the other day from Newton to Kenmore, I found myself paying extra close attention to the driver. She was efficient, friendly and seemed very alert. I resisted the temptation to ask her if she felt well, if she had had a good night’s sleep and if she was holding down two (or, God forbid,more) jobs that would put the other riders and me in jeopardy. The Green Line’s history in recent years makes that a valid concern.
The MBTA had no other choice last week in firing the 46-year-old T driver responsible for rear-ending the train in front of him in the Boylston Street station. While he was apparently travelling at 17 mph, the crash still injured 37 people, for “minor to moderate injuries.” Ironically, he was also due that week to receive a commendation for safe T driving. Now he is out, with acting general manager Jonathan Davis saying the driver had acted in “alarming disregard for customer and employee safety,” as reported in The Boston Globe.
MBTA caps drivers at 60 hours per week and requires six-hours off between shifts. The Globe reports the Authority also does random drug and alcohol testing and has supervisors assess drivers’ general fitness. The T doesn’t have the power to bar full-time employees from outside work, though Kurt Nickisch reported on WBUR this morning that the Los Angeles system, for one, does require that employees tell their supervisors if they’re moonlighting. That’s a worthwhile step, which could enable supervisors to be even more vigilant about drivers’ fitness.
I find myself, however, feeling a little sorry for the driver. He was holding down two jobs and had apparently been up nearly around the clock for more than two days. What horrible financial pressure to have to work 17 1/2 hours out of every 24. One might infer that he is super industrious to do that. Paradoxically, his lack of discipline and disregard for safety have cost him his fulltime job, at $63, 398 plus benefits. They used to say that a job at the T was like dying and going to heaven. Not this time. He’s blown it, and must live with the consequences.
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