We thank SacRT’s bus and rail mechanics for their tireless work to keep Sacramento rolling
Veteran SacRT Light Rail Mechanic John Haswell got the radio alert one day a few weeks ago. A two-car light rail train with riders on board had broken down near the Cordova Town Center Station. Such occurrences are rare, but when they happen, Haswell and team are ready.
He arrived on scene within minutes with a simple strategy: Act quickly because riders are being inconvenienced. But be thorough, be safe, and be smart.
“Number one priority is safety,” Haswell said. “Number two priority is keep the trains moving.”
That approach may well serve as the motto for SacRT’s team of several hundred mechanics who work day and night to keep the agency’s fleet of over 600 bus, rail and other vehicles rolling smoothly, and to get them back up and running when inevitable mechanical issues arise.
It’s a huge responsibility and SacRT doesn’t take it for granted. And so it’s fitting to take this opportunity to formally recognize and celebrate its mechanics on National Automotive Service Professionals Day on Monday, June 12, 2023.
“We are grateful for our service professionals,” said Carmen Alba, SacRT VP of Bus Operations. “Our maintenance and repair program is a finely-tuned team effort. It’s the cog that keeps our system running efficiently and safely for our customers.”
A few weeks ago out on the tracks in Rancho Cordova, Haswell, a 14-year veteran, immediately knew what to do. He made sure the brakes on the disabled light rail car were released, then hand cranked the motor to bring the camshaft to zero. That allowed the train operator to use the working car on the two-car train to pilot back into the Cordova Town Center Station to drop off passengers.
Then Haswell took the controls to pull the disabled light rail car onto a side track at the Sunrise Station. After the afternoon commuter rush, the train would be brought back on the tracks and towed to the north Sacramento maintenance facility for overnight repairs.
The work is satisfying, Haswell said. “I take pride in what I do,” he said. “I enjoy my job and I do it to the best of my ability.”
Other SacRT mechanics echo Haswell’s words. It shows in their work. As a group, they are well-trained, focused and systematic. And they understand the value of working as a team to get the job done.
Bus Mechanic Muhammad Aamir described a typical moment in the midtown bus maintenance facility. “The other day I was on a job that was a pretty big job,” he said. He had to do general service on a bus, but also to disassemble the brake air dryer, replace parts, reassemble it, test it and have the bus ready to roll by 3 p.m. The clock was ticking.
Ron Roberts, who had finished work on a bus in the adjacent service bay, jumped in to handle the other service tasks so Aamir could focus on the dryer.
“Ron came to the rescue,” Aamir said. “I knew when he came over, I was going to get it done. It’s a joy to work with him. We all look out for each other. It’s a culture.”
“Oh yeah,” he said. “At 3 p.m. that bus was good to go!”
SacRT mechanics also say they are driven by a sense of responsibility to the public. “We are keeping Sacramento’s transit on its wheels,” Roberts said. “We need to keep buses on the street.”
“We know kids get on these buses,” Aamir said. “We check thoroughly what we are doing. It’s important. When that bus goes out, my name is signed on that report. If you don’t want to do it right, this isn’t the place to be.”
The sentiment is the same at the SacRT light rail facility in north Sacramento.
Light Rail Mechanic Kevin Tea, a five-year veteran, loves the variety of tasks he undertakes. No two days are the same. Focus is always a key. It helps him balance the adrenaline when he goes out on a call. “As you head out there, you’re thinking of the possible problems, and what you are going to do, what steps you are going to take. Every time you respond, it is a different situation. It’s exciting.”
That pride extends to his days off when he sees a train in service that he recently worked on. “It’s a great feeling, knowing that that train is moving because you put time and effort into making sure it is done right.”
Most of the work SacRT mechanics do is preventive and conducted behind the scenes in the agency’s maintenance facilities. But Haswell, one of SacRT’s troubleshooters, knows from experience that riders are appreciative.
“When you go out,” he said, “some who maybe have seen me board the train before, they’ll clap.”
Interested in being part of a winning team that takes pride in moving the community? SacRT is hiring! View the list of open positions and apply online at sacrt.com/careers.