Local 208 Scores Win v Driverless Buses

Utano Testifies at Columbus City Council Hearing

IB ImageJUNE 11 -- TWU Local 100 President Tony Utano brought a delegation of Local 100 union officers to Columbus, Ohio to fight a move to put driverless tech on city buses. Our gesture of solidarity was to support TWU Local 208, which is fighting the possible introduction of robot drivers on public routes.

“Technology can be used to make public buses – already an extremely safe mode of travel – even safer,” he told the Council. “But there are critical safety gaps that only a human bus operator can fill – no matter how advanced technology becomes.”

Utano said robotic proximity sensors and automatic braking systems have their place in the buses of the future, but that in case of situations like a medical emergency, lost child, or frail elderly person they wouldn’t be able to help. “What if communication systems are knocked out or there is a computer glitch,” he asked. “Will an empty seat know not to drive down a street full of fire and smoke?”

"The TWU is not against technological advances," TWU Local 208 President Andrew Jordan said. "TWU believes technology is a tool that can help make public transit -- already incredibly safe -- even safer, but it shouldn't be used to eliminate these vital jobs."

Utano was joined by officers from both TA Surface and MaBSTOA, including TAS VP JP Patafio, OA Maintenance Director Tom Lenane, and Recording Secretary LaTonya Crisp.

The trip to Columbus was part of a full-court press by the TWU International to stand against the possible loss of Bus Operator jobs to driverless tech. Union members wearing message t-shirts packed the hearing room, and in the end the Columbus City Council voted unanimously in favor of a resolution expressing the sense of the TWU’s objections, which is to embrace new tech for its safety value while also preserving the crucial human element in the driver’s seat.

“There are a million reasons why the presence of bus operators is so important,” TWU International President John Samuelsen told the Council. “There will be significant and unacceptable safety and security gaps if you take Bus Operators off buses.”