Question 7

To demonstrate steps to avoid displacement, explain how current workers were engaged in the development of these transition strategies and how they will be consulted in finalizing any plans and training to meet the needs of this transition.

Best Practices:

To ensure a high-quality workforce transition plan, full and ongoing involvement of the frontline workforce in all decisions around the implementation of the new ZEB technology constitutes a critical underlying element of that plan and its implementation. Even though this question comes near the end of the series, the process of engaging stakeholders from the workforce should be part of the entire workforce transition process, from the earliest planning stages through each successive step. 

The message that frontline worker involvement is necessary needs to come from the highest levels of management and be consistently communicated and implemented throughout the entire organization. In a unionized agency, the General Manager (GM) and the local union president need to meet directly and choose people trusted by both sides to form a top-level labor-management team. That labor-management team then needs to develop effective mechanisms to engage workers, managers, and supervisors in training partnerships and opportunities for input that reach to the shop floor, incorporating the experience and expertise of the workers who know the work and the training needs. The entire organization should receive regular communications signed by the agency GM and the local union president on the urgency of working jointly and on updates about the partnership’s progress. In nonunion environments, agencies should develop appropriate communication and engagement mechanisms/tools with the frontline workforce. The synthesis report contains examples of joint labor-management partnership best practices can be accessed here.

In the critical area of supporting strategies that support the current workforce and avoid displacement, a recent report was developed based on industry best practices examples, on incorporating language into agency’s procurement documents that would require the vendor to provide more training and training more in line with the need to raise the skill levels of the transit workforce to the challenge of working on a fully electric bus.  Transit agencies can consider bringing the training department and expert technicians into the process of meeting with the vendors, asking questions, and writing and/or reviewing the training specifications in the Request for Proposals (RFPs).  These steps provide a voice for those who will be directly affected by introduction of this new technology in how they adapt to and learn the new technology.

ZEB technology provides many technical challenges. As agencies that have already introduced ZEBs can attest, this is a learning process for all involved, including the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). For some period, agencies may want to rely on a warranty from the OEM to maintain the equipment.  That is standard process (or practices) in most procurements, even in purchases with fewer technical challenges. Transit workers may resist the reliance on warranty work for good reasons; with labor-management and vendor collaboration on training, work at the agency can be performed by the incumbent workforce. Getting the existing workforce engaged in these repairs as early as possible is important because the warranty period eventually ends, and technicians must be prepared with needed skills to take over.

Here again is where there are significant advantages and opportunities in involving the union and the frontline workers directly and early. If there is a clear understanding that the agency does not intend to rely on extended warranties, management, labor, and the OEMs can work together on skills transfer.  Experts doing work onsite can take the time to explain what they are doing and to instruct agency technicians on how it is done.  While there will be some differences among OEMs, many of the firms creating the ZEB technology feel challenged by the pace of change. The rising demand for their products puts pressure on them for more production. It inevitably happens that as the new buses have difficulties, OEM staff are stretched thin and, at times, unavailable when needed, to meet competing demands from different agencies. There is significant opportunity for OEM’s, knowledgeable agency technical staff, and frontline technicians to work collaboratively on solutions that meet everyone’s needs.

With ZEBs and high-voltage electricity, transit agencies and their workers face new safety challenges.  Another provision in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires FTA recipients of funding under 49 U.S.C. 5307 that serve urbanized areas with populations of 200,000 or more to form safety committees comprised of representatives of frontline employees and management.  The purpose of these committees is to identify and recommend mitigations or strategies to reduce the likelihood and severity of safety risks, so workforce training could be an area of focus.  Transit agencies can consider involving safety experts from the local—or in nonunion environments, from the frontline workforce—in evaluating and purchasing the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE).  They also can consider using those same safety experts to run classes on the necessary and proper use of PPE.

All of these reports, resources, and information—from partnerships, to procurements, to safety—serve to provide information and support.

Best Practices Examples:

Green Jobs Training Programs, from International Transportation Learning Center (ITLC) Report

In 2007 and in 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued regulations that mandated new emission controls for diesel buses.  EPA’s clean diesel requirements required new technologies and new training on significant engine modifications as well as after treatment of exhaust emissions.  With a US Department of Labor, Green Jobs training program, ITLC worked with agencies around the country on the development and implementation of training for this new technology. One major project involved developing an accepted industry standard for training through the APTA standards process. The ITLC convened a national committee of labor and management subject matter experts from the agencies which discussed and adopted a standards approved by APTA.

ILTC also worked closely with three agencies on the implementation of training for the new emissions standards:

  • New Jersey Transit (NJT) used its procurement to buy a fully functioning engine complete with emissions-control equipment placed on a rolling assembly instead of being installed in a bus.  Cummins, the engine manufacturer provided train the trainer courses on the new emission technology for NJT trainers. Using the rolling engine assembly, NJT trainers were able to provide a lot of hands-on training to complement classroom training.
  • The Utah Transit Authority (UTA), working with ATU Local 382, used the national standard for new diesel emissions controls to develop a skills gap analysis for emissions control.  The labor-management committee administered, received and analyzed the skills gap analysis.  Based on the data, UTA and Local 382, working with a third-party contractor, developed a comprehensive three-day course combining classroom and hands-on instruction to a class of no more than six technicians at a time.
  • King County Transit in Seattle, working in close partnership with Cummins, uses training for bus maintenance, including the new emissions-reduction technology, to certify that King County technicians are certified to perform warranty work. Cummins runs a virtual college, and techs are required to take on-line courses before entering the specific training on new emissions. The classroom, located at King County’s training facility, is a fully equipped Cummins classroom, and the instructor is from Cummins. At the completion of the training, Cummins certifies that the King County technicians can perform warranty work and that King County can bill Cummins as if the work had been done at a Cummins facility. 

Additional Resources:


  • TCRP: Report 181 Volume 1, Tool Kit
    Summary: This toolkit provides resources for public transportation management and labor union leaders to establish, manage, and improve labor–management partnerships



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