Waterloo Region Record
By Anam Latif
April 7, 2017
WATERLOO REGION — Driver shields will appear on a few new Grand River Transit buses next year as part of a pilot project.
The move comes after the transit service’s union asked for better protection on the job. Earlier this week, Unifor 4304, the union representing 644 Grand River Transit workers, ratified a new contract with the Region of Waterloo.
A test run of driver shields on new buses was one of the union’s requests.
“The members really wanted this,” said Rick Lonergan, union president.
“The drivers feel vulnerable because they are on the front lines.”
The region ordered 20 new buses expected to arrive in the fall. Eight of those buses will be retrofitted with the clear, plastic shields as part of the pilot project. Those are expected to hit the roads in January 2018.
Lonergan said there are four types of shields available and the region plans to test them all to see which ones work best for Grand River Transit.
“It will address some safety issues,” said Eric Gillespie, director of transit services for the Region of Waterloo.
He said the initiative did come about through contract negotiations, but it was also an issue that had been raised at Grand River Transit’s employee health and safety committee.
The region plans to test the shields for three to four months and plan to gather feedback from drivers and riders during that time frame.
“The drivers just want to get home safe,” Lonergan said.
The recent stabbing death of a bus driver in Winnipeg also has local drivers on edge.
Bus drivers can often feel unsafe, especially when faced with behaviour like verbal abuse and spitting. Lonergan said both are common on Grand River Transit buses.
Physical altercations are rare, but they have happened, he added.
“Fortunately we live in a community where it’s mostly safe, but you never know who is getting on the bus and what they might be concealing,” he said.
That’s why he’s glad to see the region commit to testing out driver shields.
“It’s a positive approach.”
A handful of Ontario cities have driver shields on buses including Brampton and Toronto.
Lonergan said in Toronto, drivers have the option to fold away the shields if they don’t want to use them. Some models can also be folded in half.
The union’s new three-year collective agreement includes improved safety and discipline procedures and recognized maintenance protocols. It also includes wage increases of 1.5, 1.75 and 2 per cent over three years.