Driver: Transpo warns about double-deckers and overhangs
A veteran OC Transpo driver says the company specifically warns double-decker operators to beware of Transitway overhangs.
Drivers take special training to operate double-deckers like the one that crashed into Westboro station during Friday’s afternoon commute, killing three people. The canopy hit the bus just above the floor on the second deck.
“The first thing they taught us was stay the hell away from the structures at the stations because you’re not going to clear them,” said the operator, speaking on condition that he not be named, for fear of losing his job.
“We’re actually taught to board passengers further out from the curb than we normally would.”
The driver pointed out that the overhangs, which appear to be made from tubular steel, have caused problems for single-level buses because they protrude so close to the road.
In 2003, a single-deck Route 86 bus slammed into the overhang at Lees station and tore open the roof. Six passengers were hurt.
In 2003, a single-level OC Transpo bus crashed into a shelter at Lees station on the Transitway. No one was seriously injured in that crash.
Drivers who spoke to the Sun Saturday had different opinions about the double-deckers, introduced to the fleet a decade ago.
One driver said the OC likes the U.K.-built buses so much because of their capacity — 96 sitting passengers and 14 standing — but said they are better suited to highways than urban routes with many stops and starts. Another driver said the curbing distance of the bus is different because it has slightly recessed wheels.
One driver said the buses aren’t as solidly built as the 60-footers, calling it “a chassis, four posts and a metal skin.”
The transitway shelters, meanwhile, “are built incredibly strong, so you drive something built like a tin can into it and the result is what you had yesterday.”
Another driver spoke of the extra distraction caused by a windshield-side monitor that keeps an eye on activity on the second level.
“They’ve moved the upstairs camera right by the rear-view window, so it’s in line of sight. There is high distraction. They have that stupid monitor for the second floor that you have to learn to ignore,” one driver said.
The notion that a double-decker driver has too much to keep track of was a major issue in the investigation of the crash on Sept. 18, 2013, in which a two-level bus broke through rail barriers and struck a moving train just outside Fallowfield station.
Drivers also spoke of the role that speed may have played in Friday’s accident. The speed limit for buses going through a Transitway station is 50 km/h, though one driver said the maximum allowable speed between Tunney’s and Westboro station is 90 km/h.