Macon-Bibb Transit strengthens driving policy after July bus crash, violations

Drivers will be suspended five days following the first blatant traffic violation and terminated on the second offense according to the new policy


Laura Corley

First responders shut down MLK Jr. Blvd. following the July 7 crash that resulted in a Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority bus landing on top of an SUV.

The Macon-Bibb County Transit Authority is strengthening its driving policy after a bus crash sent people to the hospital in July, and another driver review revealed multiple traffic violations.

Last week, the board approved new requirements that went into effect Oct. 1.

During its August meeting, authority Executive Director Craig Ross said transit executives met and “decided we needed more bite in our driver policy” after reviewing video from buses.

“This is very important that we put these parameters in place. We need safe drivers. We don’t need any more wrecks,” Ross told the board when introducing the changes.

Dashcam video from a July 7 crash in downtown Macon shows the light was yellow when a southbound bus driver in the right lane pulled away from the bus stop near the corner of MLK Jr. Blvd. and Cherry Street.

A southbound log truck in the left lane continued through the intersection as the light turned red.

A northbound Subaru SUV waited in the oncoming left turning lane for the log truck to clear the intersection before trying to turn left onto Cherry Street.

The bus also was headed through the red light and T-boned the SUV which flipped over with the bus stopping on top of it.

Ross told The Macon Newsroom that he took “corrective actions” with the bus driver involved in the crash, but that “is a personnel issue that that I will not discuss.”

In the past, traffic violations resulted in a three-day suspension without pay for the first offense and a five-day suspension the next time. Under the new policy, the first violation will result in a five-day suspension without pay and the driver could be fired if there is a second violation.

The stiffer penalties are for blatant violations Ross defined as running red lights, failing to stop at stop signs and speeding through neighborhoods.

“We’re just having some issues with drivers running red lights, yellow lights, stop signs and going a little bit too fast, so we just have to buckle down. We don’t need another wreck like Cherry Street even though that car pulled in front of us,” Ross said before last week’s vote approving the policy.

In addition to the summer wreck, the Macon Transit Authority also uncovered multiple violations from a review of dashcam video after an apparent exaggerated citizen complaint that a bus was traveling upwards of 55 miles per hour.

“He was going 28 mph in a 25 mph speed zone, but the problem is the 4-way stop prior to that, he ran it. He ran four stop signs along his route. He passed on the righthand side in turn only lanes,” Ross reported to the board. “We suspended him five days without pay.”

“Hopefully we can move to a different level and not have as many situations,” Board Chairman Frank Tompkins said of the new policy.

Drivers already must have a valid driver’s license and comply with the substance abuse policy and maintain a safe driving record.

“We will be randomly viewing video from buses,” Ross said.

According to the new policy released to The Macon Newsroom by the Macon Transit Authority, no more than two moving violations in a year, or three moving violations in two years will be allowed. No driver can have been cited for DUI within the past three years.

The employees’ driving records will be checked upon hiring and the human resources department will check at least annually after that, the policy stated.

Any worker who receives a traffic ticket, on the job or off, must report it to the HR department immediately and notify their supervisor of any suspensions, restrictions or limitations to his or her driving record, under the new requirements.

New employees whose driving records do not meet MTA standards could be fired or reassigned.

As of its last meeting, the transit authority was down 15 drivers in a manpower shortage that has plagued many industries since the pandemic. Until the authority can get full staffed, the south Bibb County route to the industrial sector is on hold.

The authority is offering a $1,500 signing bonus for new drivers and mechanics.

“We’re not alone but it’s really getting to be critical,” Ross said.

– Civic Journalism Senior Fellow Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government entities and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.