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September 7, 2012

'Rock & Roll' for bus operators

by Louie Maiello - Also by this author

Dick Clark, Levon Helm, Davey Jones, Whitney Houston, just a few names of some music industry personnel who passed on this year. I’m sure somewhere in their past, good old Rock & Roll influenced some part of their history. As a musician, my beginnings and brush with stardom began when four lads from across the pond arrived on our shores on Feb. 7, 1964 and unleashed an all-out assault on the music industry that will probably never be seen again. These lads opened up a door to a room that no one knew existed, and to this day, no one else has found it — they too often referred back to Rock & Roll as their influences growing up across the pond. I think you know who I’m speaking of.

Transit has its own version of Rock & Roll. I once read someone’s comment that, in the case of a bus operator, ‘Rocking & Rolling’ in the seat should not occur if their mirrors are set properly. I strongly disagree with that statement and regrettably say a statement like that will precede an increase in pedestrian knockdowns, especially when turning left and departing bus stops. Although the Rock & Roll, or, as others say, the ‘Crunch and Lean’ method, is not the only part of an operator’s turn technique, it is a crucial part of the package. Rocking and Rolling must continue to be taught during training, so operators are made aware there are temporarily obstructed objects that can only be revealed by moving forward and side-to-side in the seat. Remaining complacent with a ‘fixed stare’ while conducting turns will lead to an increase in pedestrian and fixed-object contact.

Many intersection collisions occur because the operator does not expect the unexpected to occur. Professionals are responsible for a safe and successful vehicle approach, entry and exit when dealing with intersections. Intersections contain many unfavorable conditions for bus operators, and being able to process more information by seeing more through a controlled sequence of observation skills can provide much needed information back to the operator to prevent an unfortunate occurrence from materializing. Remember the basics:

  • Scan the intersection before you arrive there.
  • Take a mental snapshot of possible hazards before arriving at the intersection.
  • Understand what defensive measure may have to be put in motion.
  • When turning, ‘walk’ the bus three to five miles-per-hour through the turn as you ‘Rock & Roll while scanning.’
  • Follow through and remain off the accelerator until clearance has been confirmed.

For those of you who supplement your ‘live’ training with bus simulation training, this is a great lesson to learn in the relaxed environment of your simulator. It’s not time consuming; it’s simple and highly effective. Those of you not yet on board with bus simulator training and are planning to attend BusCon, stop in and grab a seat as I will be speaking on “Getting a Bus Operator Simulator Training Program off the Ground.”

There is always room for membership in the “Bus Operators’ Rock & Roll Hall of Fame,” although having a Hit record in your employee file will not get you in!

In case you missed it...

Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Educating the next generation of transportation leaders" here.


Louie Maiello

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  • Paul Hughes[ September 7th, 2012 @ 10:21am ]

    Why are we doing the rock n roll, because the mirrors are too small and a combination of the mirror and A pillar create a blind spot which does not allow the drivers to see pedestrians on left hand turns. Perhaps a proper design would make it easier for drivers and eliminate the rock n roll and keep the driver focused. By proper design, wrap the windshield to provide a clean unobstructed forward view and locate the mirrors mounted from the top eliminate the added blind spot. I know one bus manufacturer, Arboc that put a bunch of thought into this with their new bus, go see it at BusCon, you will be delighted. Another option, locate a camera on the side of the bus looking rearward to provide the largest field of view possible and another camera in the upper portion of the windshield looking forward to provide you a tremendous field of view. Some of the transit agencies are evaluating this now and pleased with the potential reductions in costly incidents. Eliminating the root cause has always been a good practice not working around it.

  • Fred Elliott[ September 7th, 2012 @ 11:29am ]

    I think that properly adjusted mirrors no matter what size they are greatly decreases avoidable accidents. If your coach has a mirror that you cannot adjust properly to the point where it is unsafe then get someone to fix it. It doesnt take much time to adjust a mirror. These couple of seconds that you take to do this can mean the difference between a near miss and a fatality.

  • Ralph Branch[ September 8th, 2012 @ 1:33pm ]

    As I hope the author is aware, numerous transit agencies have replaced mirrors that are unnecessarily large, creating an extreme blind spot that completely hides the pedestrian from view. And that "hiding" is added to by the motion of the bus combined with the speed that the person is moving. I also hope the author is aware of the studies that have been done that place the problem for transit agencies that haven't made changes as "acceptable risks" to pedestrian safety (and worker's careers). The transit agency I work for stubbornly refuses to either change the current mirrors that are on the buses (the dramatic increase in passenger knockdowns on left turns began when these mirrors came in use on the newer model buses they began receiving a few years ago). Other transit agencies, as I'm again sure the author is aware, have replaced the mirrors based on the same increase and/or vehicle operator complaints (and shouldn't that be the barometer that tells if there is a problem; listening to what the people who use it have to say?) or move the position of the mirror - some mounting it near the top of the window instead of the bottom mounted position. This crusade by some in transit to "blame the operator" for what happens by insisting that he/she could have done more to prevent it, instead of taking steps to prevent it, is wrong and unfair. If a person's car had a physical make-up that could easily be adjusted to allow them to better see their surroundings, I'm sure everyone would insist that the automaker do that. Why isn't that something that should be done with buses? Why is it an acceptable risk that the mirror placement and design coupled with the vehicle design could (and has) caused the injuries and deaths of numerous pedestrians? And in some cases, loss of career of workers? And then after a few years transit companies change what they would not acknowledge as a problem they could have easily fixed, without either hiring back the employee or correcting their wor

  • Joel Volinski[ September 9th, 2012 @ 4:50am ]

    No matter what you might think of the issue of bus operator rock and roll, that was a terrific tribute to the greatest band of all time - The Beatles!

  • Paul Hughes[ September 12th, 2012 @ 3:35am ]

    I absolutely agree with Ralph Branch on his comments. Unfortunately it becomes a matter of education and really knowing the root cause. These buses are poorly designed and they do not spend enough time to understand how mirror positioning can affect vision. As I had mentioned, there are new buses that took all this into consideration and designed it properly. Put the mirrors in the right spot, use large glass to provide a large field of view, use a wraparound windshield, get some cameras in the mirrors so that you eliminate the side blind spots and forward looking. If you would like to get detailed information on how blind spots affect driving and the accidents it causes, go to CUTR's website and read their research on Transit Bus Accidents and how to reduce them. It is easy, just have to understand the problem and make life easier for the drivers....everyone benefits.

  • Jamieson[ September 13th, 2012 @ 10:56am ]

    ....Crosswalks to the left, you definitely have to Rock-n-Roll. The mirrors will not do anything, as that other lazy post says

  • Billy Cameron[ September 14th, 2012 @ 11:26am ]

    I have to say that some commenters are being unfair to the author. While Ralph may have a vaild point about the placement and design of mirrors, this article is about how to comensate for the blind spot areas around the bus, including areas caused by the mirrors. Perhaps Lou will address this in a future blog, but until then commenters should offer opinions without a condesending attitued towards the author.

  • Brent J Boardman[ September 15th, 2012 @ 6:41am ]

    Anyone who thinks that an operator shouldn't have to "Rock-n-Roll" while travelling through an intersection, needs to stand in front of that vehicle. And what about backing? Talk about blind spots! With the mirrors properly set, you add 50% more viewing area by rocking and rolling.

  • Derrick Benson[ September 13th, 2013 @ 10:23am ]

    Rockin' and Rollin' is great, even for the little guys like me in para-transit. The mental aspects of our job is so important, my biggest fear is behind a bus picking up people, i see the bus at least two city blocks away, and people still wait till the last minute to change lanes, or even cut the bus off at a corner. KEEP ROCKIN'!!!!!!!


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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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