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February 3, 2012

Bus operator training - fair and balanced

by Louie Maiello - Also by this author

When considering whether to make an exception in your bus operator training program to provide "extra training" (beyond what the training program offers) to a trainee who may have been close to qualifying but failed to, be warned that this can open the door to a flood of others who were terminated now demanding the same courtesy applied to them. Would you be prepared to have them all return for extra training? Perhaps, hundreds of others who were dismissed based on an unsatisfactory evaluation at the completion of their training within the prescribed set of training days would have qualified if they were trained until they got it. Extended training does not produce better operators.

Bus operator training programs should contain a well-balanced spread of properly placed skill sets, which spoon-feed a new trainee to enable him or her to demonstrate their qualification for passenger service. This should be accomplished within — not beyond — the established amount of available training days. I am against additional training that would be given beyond the final day within the prescribed training period. "Train them until they get it" is a dangerous concept that leads to an overall rise in collisions and places a trainee in an environment (passenger service) unprepared for the challenges ahead. If the student cannot perform according to the standards of the authority within the set amount of training days, they must be released. Final is final.

It has been my experience that a required minimum of eight hours and 45 minutes per trainee of uninterrupted, basic skill live-bus training produced the cream of the crop of operators, while the maximum amount of training did not exceed 12 hours and 30 minutes. Late to qualify from the training bus can result in early first incidents. Check the probationary period, and see if those who required the maximum amount of training days to qualify were involved in incidents sooner than those who qualified within the minimum amount of required training days. Don't be surprised if you determine that trainees who qualified the earliest performed incident free for a longer period than those who required all of the available training days before qualifying. Stay fair, stay balanced. If a trainee has not earned a satisfactory evaluation after completing the final day of training, then they should be released from the program. No exceptions, it's over.

To provide better focus with regard to behind-the-wheel skills, hold off on the classroom portion of training until those who are able to satisfactorily operate the authority's vehicle according to authority standards are identified. Only after successfully qualifying on the basic-skill driving portion first, should a trainee move on to a now meaningful classroom environment. Classroom topics will now have meaning and purpose. Placing them in a classroom before determining if they can operate the vehicle can be a waste of time, money and resources. Being consistently fair and balanced with your training and curriculum will also clearly reveal to trainees, who are facing dismissal, those deficiencies that prevented them from advancing in the program.

I can tell you the most reassuring words confirming that you are running a fair and balanced program come from the trainee who failed to earn a satisfactory evaluation and is facing termination, but saying, "thank you for the opportunity, your program is fair to all, your instructors were fair and it was obvious I lacked the basic skills to succeed."

In a profession where serious and sometimes fatal injuries can be inflicted at the blink of an eye, a fair and balanced training program is not a choice but a standard to which all should adhere.

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Maintaining customer service as paratransit grows" here.

Louie Maiello


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  • Joe D. Acosta, WSO-CSSD, CCTM[ February 3rd, 2012 @ 3:58pm ]

    Though I may agree with the author regarding setting time lines, I also have found that some of our most reliable and longer term Operators (having trained thousands in classroom and in the field) tend to be those that have needed a little extra training (not more than one week extra and typically only one individual per group of ten to twenty Operator trainees). Keep in mind that their longevity on the job as an Operator depends upon a safe driving record. As long as an individual shows effort, the individual may take a little longer to grasp the training to a proficient level and may be even more appreciative thereof, and in turn become a long term employee. From time to time, refresher training or even training specific to an event such as a mishap or collision is warranted to supplement development of that Operator. This too provides an ROI regarding corrective action and extending their career. Since training Operators initially tends to be a substantial investment both financially and availability of time, not to mention resources, a little extra training within in reason is warranted.

  • Keith Charles Edwards[ February 5th, 2012 @ 1:30pm ]

    Instill a culture of safety. A bad driver with a bad attitude is a disease and a cancer. Rid your barn of such drivers. Reward the good drivers for true safety and good attitudes and isolate the bad ones.

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Author Bio

Louie Maiello

Louie Maeillo is a Sr. Consultant (Transit Training & Simulation), L-3 / DPA Independent Consultant, Bus Talk Surface Transit Solutions


Jason Palmer

President, SmartDrive Systems

Palmer is the president of SmartDrive Systems, a leader in providing comprehensive, video-based operator performance and safety programs to help transit agencies achieve operational safety and efficiency, protect operators and the public, and lower costs overall.


Barak Israel

product manager

Barak Israel is product marketing manager for the security domain for NICE Systems Inc.


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