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May 4, 2012

In the still of the night

by Louie Maiello - Also by this author

Greetings! I would like to answer the following question sent to me and thank the transit professional for doing so:

"Just this week, we have had three bus accidents. One type of ‘repeater accident’ has been occurring in the garage involving the driver’s left rear side of our 45-foot [bus]. When turning right, the left rear driver’s side swings out and catches the roof support pole. The last two accidents took out the rear side glass. I need some preventive ideas.”

This is the classic overhang problem. These types of incidents have decreased dramatically over the years as a result of the well-lit, state-of-the-art depots being built and the additional training given to the shifters/drillers — individuals who, at the end of the day, take returning buses and place them in their overnight slots.

During the days of poorly lit, outdated, smaller depots, or ‘barns’ as they were once called, this type of contact within the obstruction-filled space occurred during the “Still of the Night.” Often, the damage was not noticed until a responsible operator on pull-out conducted a thorough pre-trip inspection the following morning. Some of you may remember the days prior to pre-trip inspections, when a ‘no knowledge’ response was usually the term that was used when being questioned about bus damage, in general.

Regarding the question, knowing your bus model dynamics (e.g., pivot points and mirror positioning) is just part of the solution. Some of the causes of these contacts occurring within the depots are: 

1) Failure to check for insufficient clearance around the bus.

2) Failing to re-adjust mirrors upon relieving the departing operator.

3) Failing to stay alert and forward-plan around the trouble spot.

4) Oversteering to the right.

5) Speed, although I would hate to think that speed (especially in the depot) would be a contributor.

Consider the following: 

1) Ensure that the pole is clearly visible, even if it means painting it a different color that would make it even more visible to alert the operator of this particular trouble spot.

2) Create a handout to be posted in the depots and around the garage pull-out area alerting all to this problem.

3) Bring all student operators around this turn and provide them with the opportunity to watch you negotiate around this area. Then, have them do it while alerting them to the importance of knowing your surroundings and the limitations of your bus.

4) Go to your outdoor training area and place a cone near the pivot point of each different size bus and show them the consequences of what happens when oversteering and not thoroughly understanding the different pivot points (not getting permission), by moving the cone from the pivot areas to a point that will create contact with the bus. You can also go to the simulator and create a scenario where, unlike in the depot, the low-risk environment of a simulator can effectively deal with a high-risk situation of contact with fixed objects.

An operator handout reminder for the garage/depot area can consist of the following points: 

  • How much clearance do I have?
  • What model bus am I operating?
  • Are my mirrors providing the info I need?
  • What must I do differently?
  • When in doubt, secure bus and GET OUT AND LOOK!

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Congress, stop kicking transportation bill down the road" here.

Louie Maiello

Write a letter to the editor digg it stumble upon newsvine

  • Susanne Watson[ May 4th, 2012 @ 11:33am ]

    We had a similiar issue with our canopy poles, painting them did not help. Then you painted a yellow line beyond the parked bus, requiring that all drivers travel beyond the line before turning right or left. This gave our vehicles adequate clearance from the pole.

  • william Mazmanian[ May 4th, 2012 @ 1:09pm ]

    As a bus driver trainer for many years I have found a serious flaw at the manufacturing point of these very expensive buses and that is at the rear of every bus there should be a bright light near the two wheel wells [right& left]these lights would work in conjunction with the reverse light and an independent switch so that the operator can put it on manually. This light although bright must be directed in a downward fashion from the rear wheels area towards the pivot point. In my view it is not a mirror issue as these buses usually have excellent mirrors and if a driver doesn't move his mirror certainly then I would move my head for the perfect view. These Items can be installed by the company probably at minimal cost but it will be worth it. The owners should also take into consideration that most coachs are 45 foot in length as opposed to years ago the 40 foot bus. This letter should also be directed to all bus manufacturers . thank you I remain William Mazmanian Owner operator of Maz's bus driver training. 519 745 2270 E-mail

  • R Troy[ May 4th, 2012 @ 6:49pm ]

    About 20 years ago I had the opportunity, representing my Community Board in NYC, to tour the 100th St Depot in Manhattan. There were lots of issues affecting service, including maintenance. The tour helped me understand quite a bit. Very old GM coaches that had some unwise decisions made before rebuild (David Gunn told me later that he had some regrets, but things were so bad when he took over he tried to fix as much as he could as quick as he could). Also, this depot was one of the old barns - called that because it started out with horse drawn equipment. The ramps were steep and narrow, and if a bus broke down on the ramp coming down, there went your rush hour service. On top of that, the repair areas were ancient, and the part supply at the time was mainly what was salvaged from coaches taken out of service. Do keep in mind that NYCTA has come a long way since those days but they still have issues with some depots from what I hear.

  • William Santiago[ May 5th, 2012 @ 5:35am ]

    You my consider painting a yellow or what ever color indicator line to let your operator know that they are at the pivot point and to turn wheels at a stop position then proceed to go forward so as not to lose any clearance and less tail swing. Hope this helps

  • J.F. Power[ May 9th, 2012 @ 6:08am ]

    As clearly stated by Louie the issue here is the overhang of the rear of the vehicles in question, and the failure of the operators understanding what happens to the vehicle when they oversteer either right or left. The question of proper lighting for the location and the proper set-up of mirrors also plays a part in the solution. Ultimately, this is a question of education/training of the operators. Operators understanding the required clearences in a depot/barn environment, and the necesscity of "move and maneuver" to prevent the overhang section to make contact with a fixed object, or worse, a pedestrian standing near the rear of the vehicle.

  • Bruce Seibel[ May 10th, 2012 @ 1:27pm ]

    Louie this subject really brings back memories for me. You know how tight the Amsterdam Depot at 129th Street was!!! Well, it's all about the training and knowing your limitations. NYC had some of the best trainers ever, they taught us how to drive some of the oldest equipment first, by the time we went to the newer buses with power steering you were a pro. Wish it worked like that these days!!!

  • Dudley Horscroft[ May 14th, 2012 @ 12:05am ]

    Surely the problem is exactly the same as when driving a car out from some of the very constrained spaces in enclosed car parks. I would suggest that two things need to be considered - how much clearance is available on the right side of the bus, and if the driver starts turning inside the garage, is there clearance for the rear to swing slightly before coming up to the problem pole. Presumably there is little clearance outside the bus garage, else there would be no problem in driving straight out. Suggest that the driver turns the bus as soon as it starts moving so that the right front corner just clears any obstruction to the right, and then drives straight. As the bus has been turned slightly the rear wheels will track to the right and by the time the rear comes to the problem pole there will be additional clearance. Try this with a model and see if it works, and then confirm with the bus in question.

  • William Mazmanian[ May 15th, 2012 @ 1:35pm ]

    This is in addition to my response of may 4 th. having read Louie Maiello article re-garage incidents,it seems that the problem is not with bus drivers but with the night service attendants [sifters& drillers] as the term you use.If I am correct as in the above then the best solution is if you operate a none union place then the ideal thing to do is start a program that all garage employees obtain a bus driver licence and include them in a public bus service in rotation with others.this procedure need only to be perhaps one day per week thereby giving these employees a hands on experience that all the training can not accomplish . These cases are quite simply a matter of OVER confidence and as this program is implemented you will see excellent results because these employees will notice that when they are driving on the public roadways that their skills are put to the test every minute with an obvious scrutiny of the public. This plan may not work in a union shop because of restrictions placed in contracts,also some may not be suitable for such a program. Thank you again I remain William Mazmanian Maz's bus driver training

  • Raja[ July 27th, 2012 @ 8:44pm ]

    At last, somneoe who knows where to find the beef


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Author Bio

Joyce Rose

President/CEO, Operation Lifesaver Inc.

Joyce Rose is President and CEO of Operation Lifesaver Inc., a national, non-profit safety education group whose goal is to eliminate deaths and injuries at railroad crossings and along railroad rights-of-way.

Steve Mentzer

Manager, Transit Simulations, Training & Courseware, L-3 D.P. Associates

Steve Mentzer is manager, transit simulations, training & courseware, at L-3 D.P. Associates.

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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