The Tampa Area Safety Council honored nine HART Operators with the One Million Mile Club Award at their 34th Annual Safety Awards Luncheon on May 13. Those presented with the coveted One Million Mile Club awards for 2013 were Desmond Coulson, Demetra Jackson, Charles Evans, Rigoberto Oquendo, Luis Garcia, Thomas Palmore, David Gonzalez, Al Hughes, and Antonio White.
“Today HART celebrates the operators who safely move our patrons across Hillsborough County every day,” said Michael Stephens, HART Chief of Business Enterprise and Safety Officer. “Driving one million or more accident-free miles is an incredible achievement, and we are grateful for their commitment to safety for themselves and for all the people with whom we share the road.”
Each of these extraordinary Operators has been diligent about maintaining passenger safety as a top priority during their long, outstanding careers with HART that trace back to the late 1990s and early 2000s. To qualify for membership in the One Million Mile Club, a Bus or Van Operator must complete an average of 14 consecutive years or a million miles without a preventable accident. As a team these honorees have earned a combined safe driving record of nine million miles, the equivalent of driving to the moon and back 38 times without an accident.
The career paths of each HART Operator are also defined by hard work, courage and achievement. During his tenure Antonio White, was called up as a Reservist and deployed to war in the Middle East. After completing his tour, he returned to HART and continued logging safe miles. David Gonzalez, also a military veteran, served in the Air Force for more than 20 years before joining HART. Rigoberto Oquendo, who began in the maintenance department prior to becoming a Bus Operator, also has an interesting story because before coming to Tampa he emigrated from Cuba.
The One Million Mile Club has been in existence since 1994. This elite designation clearly demonstrates each Operator’s commitment to the core HART mission and customer-centric philosophy. These highly skilled and qualified drivers boast a HART patch on their uniforms to distinguish them as members of the Million Mile Club. “It’s a great achievement for these Operators and it’s all about teamwork and training, whether they get it inside the classroom or out on the road,” explains Rickey Kendall, HART Senior Manager of Risk & Environmental Safety.
The One Million Mile Club now has 124 members, and 24 of them have been inducted into the Two Million Mile Club, a status that requires 27 years of driving without a preventable accident. Over the past 20 years, eighteen HART Drivers have been accepted into the Two Million Mile Club. Only one person, retired HART Operator Samuel Baker, holds the remarkable status as a Three Million Mile Club member. He earned that legendary honor 10 years ago after driving for 42 years without causing an accident.
HART has more than 400 Bus and Van Operators. Before they get behind the wheel for their first route, HART provides each driver with an extensive and stringent training course that covers safety, customer service, ADA and emergency response.