The MBTA has fired five more managers for their alleged roles in doctoring mileage records to avoid regularly scheduled bus inspections, bringing to 13 the total number terminated since the scheme was made public last month, T officials said today.
Six others have received three-day suspensions for lesser roles, meaning 19 superintendents, supervisors, and foremen have been implicated -- or more than 1 out of every 4 of the managers overseeing the 600 technicians and laborers responsible with maintaining buses that transport hundreds of thousands of riders daily.
MBTA General Manager Richard A. Davey Jr. said the T has concluded a three-month investigation and officials do not anticipate more firings, barring new information. He also said the MBTA has largely caught up with the backlog that resulted from the manipulated records, which caused more than 200 buses to go as long as 35,000 miles without being checked for mechanical problems or receiving routine maintenance such as oil changes and tire rotations.
"We've really turned over every stone, if you will, and I think we have a very good handle on what happened and new procedures in place to make sure it won't happen again," said Davey, who took over as general manager in March, midway through the internal audit and investigation. "I think the message is clear now for all of our employees that this behavior is unacceptable, and if they see it, I ask them to bring it to management's attention for us to take action."
T officials have said the deferred inspections and maintenance did not cause known safety problems -- in part because buses are visually inspected by drivers each day -- but likely contributed to poor performance and delays on some bus routes.
Six other foremen received suspensions for lesser roles, such as failing to log out of the computerized maintenance system, allowing others to then manipulate records, T officials said.
Davey characterized the fired employees as a small group that perpetuated a scheme at three of the T's nine bus facilities: Arborway, Charlestown, and Southampton Street.
But one of the fired superintendents said they were taking the fall for a widely acknowledged practice in which maintenance workers put off time-consuming inspections and service because of top-down pressure to keep buses running.
"Everybody knew, everybody knew," said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is contemplating legal action. "That's the mentality, that's the culture, that's the way it's been -- and to fire people because that's the way it's been done is crazy."
The terminated superintendent said it was common to treat serious problems immediately but postpone preventive maintenance inspections and service -- recommended by manufacturers and required by the T every 6,000 miles -- should it get in the way of calls for vehicles. He said most division managers knew about it, but only some actively falsified the records.
The T uses about 800 of its 1,050 buses on a typical day but presses more into service when subway or commuter rail routes are shut down because of emergencies or track repairs.
"If you're a foreperson and you get that call that the Green Line is washed out and they need every bus, they're going to tell you to put it out if it's usable," said the former superintendent. "They can't have all those people waiting out on the streets."
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