METRO RECOGNIZES OPERATORS WHO ‘PLAY IT SAFE’ ON THE ROAD & RAIL
BUS OPERATOR DRIVES 30 YEARS WITH CLEAN RECORD… AND STILL COUNTING
METRO bus operators, collectively, clock about 50 million miles on the road every year. To drive 30 consecutive years with no safety infractions and no preventable accidents is quite a feat, and it is one that Isaac Spencer, Jr. has just accomplished.
“I just take it as the day comes. Every day that goes by is another challenge out there. So you have to be watchful and thankful that you can make it through the day,” says Spencer. “There are all kinds of obstacles out there that are going to be thrown at you, but you don’t learn it overnight.”
The 57-year-old will celebrate 31 years of service at METRO this April, and is among the agency’s 2011 Safety Award winners.
The safety award program recognizes bus and rail operators (full and part time) and maintenance workers who help keep Houston’s streets safe. Awards include a gift card incentive as well as rewards such as belt buckles or a leather jacket, depending on the amount of safe years banked. To be eligible for the award program, maintenance employees must have consecutive safe years whereas bus operators’ years are cumulative.
In Spencer’s case – his years were consecutive. The self-described human GPS system is just one of four bus operators to have driven 30 consecutive years with a clean safety record since 1973.
“It takes years to get to that skill, that level,” says Spencer. “And once you get there, the reflexes will take over.”
Those skills also include patience Spencer says, as well as keeping your eyes moving.
“Watch out for that left mirror – that’s going to be your best friend. You have to be careful. There are [drivers] coming from different angles.”
Spencer, whose dad was a 50-year veteran at METRO, recalls how nervous he felt the very first time he got behind the wheel.
“It’s a whole different feeling when you’re hauling passengers. You’ve got people’s lives in your hands,” says the Houston native. “Once you get past that, it was pretty cool.”
Spencer says his most memorable time on the road was in the early 1990’s when a patron’s infant stopped breathing. Spencer pulled over, called dispatch, revived the baby by performing CPR and waited for EMS to arrive. The baby was ok, and Spencer never heard from the patron again.
When Spencer is not driving a bus, he enjoys riding his motorcycle and raising pigeons.
Spencer and his fellow 30-consecutive safe year drivers will be presented with plaques at METRO’s Rodeo Family Day event this Saturday, March 26, 2011, at 3 p.m.