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I would like to respond to Kerry Hammond's letter (Forum, Dec. 2) regarding the treatment of UTA drivers. He was right when he said that bus drivers have an amazing ability to cope with difficult situations such as weather, traffic and unruly passengers. We are proud of these drivers, and UTA tries to support them through these challenges.

UTA operators pass a number of screening and training steps to be sure they can perform the job safely and efficiently. Absolutely no federal or state funds are received solely for training of new operators. Training is a big expense - for every training dollar spent, there are fewer resources available for bus service, so UTA tries hard to minimize training costs and turnover.It is true that many drivers work split shifts. The reason for this is that UTA exists to provide transportation when people need it. The majority of people in the valley need to get somewhere during the peak periods of 7-9 a.m. and 4-6 p.m., to UTA matches service to meet this demand. In fact, we run about twice as many buses during the morning and evening peak hours as we do at noon because the demand for service is less at midday.

This situation does make scheduling difficult, and UTA realizes that bus operators face stress in filling the work assignments. However, operators who remain with the company may choose shifts more suited to their needs by seniority.

As for the question that was raised about morale, UTA did a companywide survey in July 1994, with 87 percent of employees participating. In response to the statement, "UTA is a great place to work," 83 percent agreed.

UTA must perform a balancing act to give the public the service they need when they need it, making the most efficient use of taxpayer money and giving employees the best working conditions possible. It's a difficult task and we cannot please everyone, but UTA does a good job in balancing the needs of all concerned.

Ruth Hendricks

Human resources generalist