DCT operates routes in Dorchester, Talbot, Caroline and Kent counties. DCT is the first agency in the nation to earn these credentials. This development not only will serve to reduce risks to riders and employees, but will also help DCT to comply with new federal guidelines.
"We have operated safely for many years," Operations Manager Jerome Stanley said. "But we are always looking for ways to improve, so we were glad to take a fresh look at our operation." The program involves an extensive review of procedures and policies, including driving, maintenance, administration and training. Staff prepared for a two-day inspection by spending several weeks updating their policy manual, inspecting sites and making sure that proper equipment and supplies were available.
"We worked hard to address every suggestion, and we're going to keep doing that - it's not something that's done only once. We have a professional and moral obligation to offer a safe and secure work and travel environment," Safety Committee Member Sandy Russum said. Mr. Stanley and Ms. Russum are safety officers at DCT, trained and approved by the CTAA.
Recent action by the United States Congress to include new transit safety requirements in the latest surface transportation law reinforces this commitment. With the passage of Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century, (MAP-21) over the summer, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) now has the authority to establish and enforce what it calls, “a new comprehensive framework to oversee the safety of public transportation.”
After several rail transit-related accidents involving passenger fatalities in Boston and Washington, D.C., congressional intent to provide safety oversight authority to FTA was well documented in the lead-up to MAP-21’s eventual passage. The only question was to what extent smaller city and rural transit bus operators would be impacted.
“We knew this was coming as part of the bill,” CTAA’s Training Program Director Charles Dickson said in a prepared statement. “And we’ve already responded by tailoring the Association’s popular and successful safety-related training programs to the new requirements. We wanted to get ahead of these new requirements and help our members do the same.”
The new law applies to any operator that receives federal investment. The Secretary of Transportation is imbued with the authority to inspect and audit all public transit systems with respect to safety; to make reports and issue directives; to investigate accidents and incidents; and, among others, to issue regulations to carry out transit safety provisions.
For CTAA members, each will now be required to have a public transportation agency safety plan in place in order to draw down federal transit dollars, though the actual specifics of what these plans must contain has not yet been revealed. MAP-21 describes the contents of a plan thusly:
• The board of directors (or equivalent entity) must approve the agency safety plan;
• The plan must include methods for identifying and evaluating safety risks throughout all elements of the agency;
• The plan must cover strategies to minimize the exposure of the public, agency personnel and property to hazards and unsafe conditions;
• A process and timeline for reviewing and updating the safety plan annually must be in place;
• Safety performance targets — as will be established by the FTA, in consultation with the transit community — must be part of the plan;
• Each agency must have an adequately trained safety officer who reports to the general manager; and,
• The plan must include a comprehensive staff training program for operations personnel and personnel directly responsible for safety.
Almost immediately after MAP-21 passed into law, CTAA met with its key safety training partners around the nation to develop a response.
“Much of what the law prescribes matches up with what we’ve been offering in terms of transit safety for years,” Lazaro-Noel’s Ream Lazaro, a primary Association training partner, said on CTAA's website www.ctaa.org. “It was clear that in the case of transit agencies that had already undergone training and developed processes and individuals tuned to safety, that the transition under MAP-21 would be smooth.”
A prime element in MAP-21’s new transit safety rules is the establishment of a safety officer at each transit system. CTAA’s Certified Safety and Security Officer(CSSO) certification program is an ideal program to train and develop this important position.
The program is designed to help officers build the transportation organization, enhance the professionalism of its internal team, safely serve its customers, fulfill its responsibilities in assisting in community emergency preparedness, identify internal safety and security strength and weaknesses, and reduce system exposure to liability.
To help transit agencies further meet their system safety goals and come into compliance with the forthcoming federal transit guidelines, CTAA has launched the Community Transportation Safety and Security Accreditation (CTSSA) program, which is designed to promote the safety and security of the customers of community and public transportation systems and also to promote the safety and security of the women and men who deliver these services and provide mobility for the riding public every day.
“We’re confident that our members have long provided safe transportation for their communities and passengers,” Mr. Dickson said. “Our safety training programs will allow them to get ahead of the rules in terms of compliance, and to be sure they’re doing all they can in the name of safety.”