All I would like to have when I arrive at work is decent equipment to do my job. I can’t help what shape the buses are in. Many of the buses on my lot are not in the best shape. Since my last post, there was a huge snowstorm later that week. So, we were out the whole week and a holiday (that next Monday.)
On that Tuesday, we had the challenge of walking on ice and some small snow banks to get to our buses. They had to rearrange the buses because of the huge snow piles that blocked some of the parking spaces. I had the challenge of trying to get out of the lot because my bus was parked in the back and some of my co-workers decided to park however they thought was good for them, which meant that I was blocked in and had to wait about 30 minutes until some folks moved there buses out.
I was very frustrated, and therefore decided to move my bus in a place where it was more convenient for me since they were not strict on us as to where we parked. They were only concerned with if we parked correctly. So, I did this for a few days. But, my assigned bus had a problem. For some reason there was a gradual build up of what smelled like diesel fumes in the front. This primarily affected me and not the students nor the attendant.
I reported this, in writing, for the next couple of days. I mentioned it to my supervisors as well as those who oversee the maintenance of the buses (whom I think are a joke, btw). It got to the point where I could no longer drive the bus because my eyes were watering, lips burning, breathing labored, nausea and heaviness in my chest which feel like it spread to my neck and shoulders. The first day I couldn’t take it, I was able to get a decent bus that didn’t have that issue.
But, the next morning I asked my supervisor about that bus, because I noticed that it was gone when I returned from my route that evening. My supervisor said that it had not been to the shop (smh!) and that the bus was out there. So, I went to the bus, with wishful thinking it was taken care of, and it was not. I sat on the bus a few minutes and it seemed like my body was like “No more!” I started to cough like a choking, gagging type and my eyes started to water again. So, I went back to my supervisor and told him I needed another bus because that bus still had that issue.
So, he gives me this extra long bus, originally for wheel chair passengers, and it only had four seats! I only have for students, so it was ok. But, the bus had a fume issue as well! It wasn’t as bad as my bus, but it was still a problem. So, I just toughed it up and took that bus and completed my route for the day, still feeling sick.
The thing that’s sad about the whole issue is the bus is continued to be passed around. It seems that if the bus is driveable, then they want us to take it. When we are slowly getting sick from these fumes. It could be a quick fix, but the buses that are a priority are the ones that are not running at all. A friend of mine asked me why do they always respond in a reactive way instead of a preventative way? Another friend asked me if maintenance costs are budgeted and if they are, what’s happening with the money? My answer to these questions are “I don’t know!” It makes sense, but that always doesn’t translate in practice.
So, I’ve been out sick since last Thursday. I was feeling so bad, I felt I had to take a few days off to go to the doctor to make sure it wasn’t some serious stuff I was breathing in for a couple of hours a day. Also, I didn’t mention that the diesel fuel that the buses are using now is a cheaper brand, so that’s another reason why I wanted to get checked out.
I went to the doctor’s yesterday and she said I was good as far as my breathing and heart rate, but she didn’t want to expose me to a chest X-Ray as of yet. So, she asked me how I felt and I still wasn’t 100%, so she gave me two more days off and then I should be ok to go back to work this upcoming Thursday if I’m feeling better.
As of today, I feel as if I will be able to go back as scheduled. But, I have a feeling no work has been done to that bus. Unless my supervisor has proof that this bus has been looked at, then I will not drive it. All I am going to do is get sick all over again and I don’t want that. This is the sickest I’ve been in a while. Usually I’ll stay off two days max, but I cannot recall being off more than that. So, I have to go through the process of “reinstatement,” meaning I have to go to the central office of transportation so they can take me off of “long term leave status” or something like that? This is my first time through this, so I will go there tomorrow and take care of that.
Unfortunately, there are more than a few buses with fume problems. It’s very unsafe, but these buses are still on the road and we are being slowly exposed. I know from all the years I’ve been working around school buses, I’ve been breathing in too much! It’s a problem that probably can be easily fixed, so I don’t understand the delay. No one should have to go through what I have been going through. All myself and my co-workers want are safe buses to do our job.