Victor Ornelas recently became the first MAX operator ever to be awarded the distinction of “Gold Grand Master” Operator. He is one of only four operators to achieve this status.
This honor is part of our Master Operator Program, which is designed to recognize bus and rail operators who achieve overall excellence in their duties as professional drivers. Victor has completed more than 58,800 superior driving hours.
This is no small accomplishment. To attain this milestone you would have to drive 6.7 years nonstop. He has 27—closing in on 28—years of safe driving with excellent attendance.
This award is truly an honor. I didn’t set a goal to become a Gold Grand Master, I just showed up every day and did the job the best I could.
Victor is a seasoned operator who has had some close calls. Ornelas recounted one moment that has stuck with him over the years. While stopped at the Lloyd Center/NE 11th Ave MAX Station, some kids were playing around on the platform as riders were boarding. After the doors closed, Victor prepared to pull out of the station. Just as he began to roll, a teen was pushed by friends between the MAX cars. Fortunately, Victor was alert to the potential hazard. He secured his train and saw that the young woman had fallen between the cars. His attention to his surroundings and driving skills likely saved her life.
Victor and his wife of 34 years, Marilyn, enjoy traveling and spending time together when he’s not working. He joined TriMet right after his service in the Air Force. He was stationed out of Fairchild in Spokane, Washington.
“I came to Portland and applied at TriMet and at the Post Office,” says Victor. “I went to both interviews and TriMet won the draw, thought I would give it a try. Just think, I could’ve been your postman!”