NFTA: Bus operator to be suspended without pay

Internal investigation completed

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority will take disciplinary action against a Metro bus operator, according to a spokesman with the NFTA.

The internal action comes in the wake of a News 4 Investigation into the cell phone habits of truck and bus drivers on Buffalo area highways.

In one video clip a Metro bus moves at highway speed along Interstate 190 in the downtown area.

The operator can be seen holding what appears to be a cell phone with one hand while steering with the other.

News 4 showed the video to NFTA spokesman Douglas Hartmayer.

"It looks like one of the operators has his cell phone in his hand and it looks like he could be texting on his cell phone," said Hartmayer.

Hartmayer says the NFTA's preference would have been to terminate the operator. But he says a three day suspension without pay is the maximum discipline that management can impose in this instance under a performance improvement guideline that it has with the union.

"There is zero tolerance within the authority for anyone operating an NFTA vehicle and texting or talking on a cell phone," he said.

Generally speaking, Sgt. Ed Schramm of the New York State Police says the law is clear when it comes to hand-held texting or talking while driving.

"It doesn't make a difference. Either one. The law says it's for hand-held electronic devices and the use of it by utilizing it in your hand is the violation of law," said Sgt. Schramm.

It's not clear by looking at the video if the Metro bus was carrying passengers at the time.

"But irrespective of that he is operating an NFTA bus with what appears to be his cell phone and either texting or communicating on that phone," said Hartmayer.

The union representing NFTA bus drivers issued a response to the incident captured by News 4 cameras.

STORY | Truckers breaking laws cause dangers 

Vincent Crehan, president and business agent of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1342 , says the union represents over 500 drivers, and that the vast majority do a great job every day.

"We certainly don't condone using a cell phone while driving, especially when it comes to the safety of passengers," said Crehan.

NFTA spokesman Douglas Hartmayer says the suspension will take effect later this week.

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