Bugs on the Go: Dealing with Non-Paying Passengers

Aug. 8, 2018

Of all the issues that one has to deal with in the mass transit sector, there’s probably nothing more troubling or unpleasant than seeing vehicles become host to pests like bed bugs, mites, roaches, fleas and all the other invaders that can hop, crawl or fly their way into your business.

However, the problems don’t end there. All of these creatures can — and will — take up residence wherever and whenever they please, and that includes offices, ticketing areas and waiting rooms, storage facilities, garages and service sheds. Even lockers, public seating, bathrooms and so forth are not immune. They can also be infested with theses nasty interlopers.

And if that weren’t enough, the sector has to content with the all of those microbial agents that can be a critical public health issue, especially since they can be easily transferred from person to person in such areas as public transportation systems. This is a particularly concerning to the public health community when if those are drug-resistant and pathogenic, including, for instance, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, as well as all the other strains of bacteria found in public places

Why is the transportation industry at a particular risk?

So, why are transportation modes so vulnerable? Well, for one thing riders themselves are often the ‘culprits’, bringing pests along in their luggage, their carry-ons, even their clothing. And no one is immune. Even the most respectable looking, well-dressed person can be an unwitting conveyance for pests or bacterial organisms.

Nancy McCord, writing about a bed bug infestation on San Francisco’s rapid transit service, BART, pointed out , “That’s the thing about bed bugs. They accompany people onto planes, trains, buses, subways, cabs and cars, hidden in clothing or hiding in purses, briefcases or backpacks. If you are unfortunate enough to occupy a seat recently occupied by someone exposed to bed bugs, you could wind up being bitten while en route to your destination. And when you arrive, you could carry a few of these tiny blood-sucking pests with you into your home or office.

Of course, like everyone in the business, we work with those transient populations that are particularly drawn to mass transit facilities and vehicles. And let’s face it: they’re never going to go away so trying to evict them permanently just isn’t going to happen.

There is also the unavoidable fact — for the vast majority of transportation companies – the cleaning and sanitization procedures are inadequate or, at the very least, not frequent or thorough enough to tackle the problem.

The Solution

Whether faced with bed bugs, roaches, fleas or lice ‒ or a nasty combination of all four ‒ the first priority it to eliminate them. There are many disinfectants and insecticides to choose from. Sterifab, for example, is EPA registered and is acknowledged to be among the most efficient and cost-effective.

Pest Prevention 101

Before ever implementing anti-pest procedures, employees must be properly changed, be they drivers, conductors, flight attendants, pilots, engineers, cleaning and maintenance staff, train crews, baggage handlers, ticket agents, courtesy personnel and so forth.

But, rule number #1 should be: Every report should be taken seriously, because pests ‒ bed bugs, fleas, lice, etc.‒ won’t go away on their own.

Staff should be trained on how to respond to complaints and reports of pests. Keep in mind that a failure to act can have quite serious consequences‒for your business! These days it’s easy to post negative comments and alerts on all manner of social media outlets. And don’t dismiss this either. A lifetime spent building a reputation or a brand can evaporate if complaints aren’t handled intelligently and promptly.

How to Eradicate Unwanted "Travelers"

For individual owners or operators, it’s relatively easy to remove a vehicle from the road until it’s been thoroughly de-bugged. However, it’s another matter entirely for trains, buses or passenger planes. For larger transportation companies, the entire vehicle must be removed from service until all of the nasty critters have been completely eradicated.

One that’s done the vehicle can be returned to service, but it should be re-inspected one or two weeks afterwards. In fact, regular pest inspections should be part of regular maintenance operations for any transportation company

As one source so aptly put it “Unless you get rid of the root of the problem, repeat infestations are bound to occur. This happens to more people than you might expect, which is why it is imperative you call a professional and experienced ... exterminator the moment you become aware [on the problem].”

Be Prepared

Just because the pests have been successfully eliminated from vehicles or passenger facilities doesn’t mean a company can relax and let their guard down. The bugs would like nothing better.

Sadly, one can never be sure that they won’t come back. It’s an unfortunate fact of life.

As such, transportation managers should set in place preemptive action plans so that they can avoid infestations and, moreover - when faced with an infestation - be ready to act quickly.

As bed bugs and other pests become an increasing risk, particularly due to climate change , every transportation company should have precise, well-defined procedures in place to deal with any pest intrusion. In fact, what the National Pest Management Association suggested vis a vis bed bug infestation holds for virtually all pest problems : “Develop a written bed bug action plan in advance of problems being identified” they suggest, “with specific procedures and responsibilities for responding to a bed bug incident.”

And make sure that employees know exactly how to respond as well.

One last piece of advice: Establish regular inspections of all your vehicles and facilities, no matter how inconvenient that might seem. Constant vigilance and the number of your pest control company on speed dial are your best defense against an invading pest army.

Noel McCarthy is a writer for Sterifab.

He can be reached via email at [email protected] or via LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/noelmccarthy.