The day after the accident, a superintendent issued an email to the head of bus maintenance stating that there was an issue with the master switch on 8000-series buses and all would need to be checked by the end of the day. This warning did not stop Metro from continuing to place the buses in revenue service that day as well as the day after before a second incident on Thursday morning.
The bus involved in Monday’s accident lost power while traveling at 60 mph on southbound I-395. As a result of the power loss, the wheels and brakes instantly locked, leaving the operator to grip the steering wheel and ride it along the expressway’s jersey wall to avoid collision.
The union says that had it not been for the jersey barrier, the operator’s strength, and his quick thinking, there could have been dozens of injuries and fatalities on an expressway full of moving vehicles.
The accident caused injury to the bus operator’s knee, shin, shoulder, lower back and collar bone and he is out of work while he heals.
WMATA formally recognized the bus issues the following day. Bus operators, however, were never communicated with about the potential for the buses to lose power at any time. This incident points back to the ineffective safety culture where service is placed as a priority over safety and riders and operators are left at risk.
ATU Local 689 is calling on Metro to enforce an effective safety culture by informing the bus operators of what corrective measures are being taken before the buses return to service. The union is also calling for a stop to reactive measures when there are known safety hazards.
“The mechanics have not been trained on how to properly fix the switch problem on the buses, and the operators have not been told that there even is a problem. Metro cannot claim to be serious about rider and worker safety when it is knowingly putting riders and workers in unsafe conditions.”
Once the 8000-series buses were pulled from service last week, Metro instructed operators who were unaware of the bus’s dangers from a neighboring bus garage to transport them for repair.
“Safety is our number one priority at Local 689,” Thomas continued. “If Metro is not going to step up and do the right thing about worker and rider safety, we will have to force them to.”