Home CommentaryOpinions Calling all STM bus drivers: put your calls on hold

Calling all STM bus drivers: put your calls on hold

by The Concordian October 18, 2011
Calling all STM bus drivers: put your calls on hold

Grievances against the Societé de transport de Montréal have simply gotten out of hand. The Gazette has pointed out that between Aug. 2010 and March 2011, there have been 189 complaints against STM bus drivers who used their cellphones while driving.
It is illegal in Quebec for drivers to use cellphones while operating a vehicle, due to the obvious risks involved. Indeed, it is an issue of general welfare for drivers to have their full attention on the road in order to reduce incidents caused by negligence. This is even more relevant to drivers of public buses, who are responsible for the lives of many, both inside and outside of their vehicles.
It is important that these public concerns be properly addressed, especially involving a system that transports several million people every year.
Unfortunately, the STM seems to be placing a higher value on the careers of its drivers rather than the security of its passengers. STM spokesperson Marianne Rouette explained in an interview that provincial and STM policies prohibit the use of cellphones while driving. Rouette even provided documentation attesting to how a ban on cellphones on public buses even took place before the provincial ban and that the official policy went as far as forbidding STM drivers from using Bluetooth headsets.
When asked about punitive measures taken against drivers who break these rules, she was clear that disciplinary action is done privately. Drivers are dealt with on a case by case basis and judged according to their records and other circumstances, with room for appropriate leniency. None of these proceedings are revealed to the public in order to protect the privacy of the drivers.
With all due respect to Rouette, secrecy is simply not acceptable for a public transit enterprise such as the STM. Transparency is essential, not only because our tax dollars help fund the STM, but because our safety is at hand.
Montrealers have a right to know whether the public employees they directly or indirectly support are engaged in dangerous behaviour. A person’s right to privacy must be protected, but when that person’s negligence puts the lives of dozens of people at risk, they need to be reprimanded in a way that sends a message to other drivers as well.
As the complaints keep piling on, promises don’t cut it. Since we don’t know for sure whether these drivers are held accountable for their actions, it is perfectly logical for the STM to continue the trend of disciplining its drivers behind closed doors.
It is time for all public transportation users to demand an increase in transparency from the STM; the stakes are too high. Will they wait until a pedestrian is run over, or for a bus to crash into other vehicles in order to make the message clear? The attention of bus drivers, as with any other drivers, should not be compromised by cellphone use. STM drivers who break the law must be severely reprimanded even though they work for a powerful enterprise.
Boycott may be too severe a recourse for users of the STM, since we need the service, and drivers haven’t exactly mowed down any pedestrians yet because of carelessness. However, better measures need to be put into place so that accidents are prevented before it’s too late.

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