Most new hires come with a basic knowledge of how to operate a motor vehicle. They understand the consequences of making the wrong choice when decision time is at hand and transfer this level of driving experience with them to the operation of a bus. The real task is getting the new hire to comprehend that they must adapt several new techniques to accommodate the larger vehicle, along with the addition of transporting passengers and so on.
New hires with prior experience operating large vehicles usually have an understanding of the allowances to be made with a larger vehicle in such things as turning and lane placement. In most cases, however, a deprogramming process is necessary to eliminate bad habits and educate the new hire that they must now operate the transit agency's vehicle according to the standards of the Training Department. Many times those with prior experience cannot lose these habits during the training window and must be let go. Those who do adapt will become even better drivers.
On the other hand, those new hires who have never driven anything larger than a motor vehicle are faced with having to quickly comprehend and demonstrate, successfully during their training, those 'Dynamic Dozen' differences between the operations of a bus versus a passenger vehicle before being considered for hiring.
This leads us to the Dynamic Dozen, those differences and challenges that face new hires:
- The differences in visibility moving from an automobile to a bus.
- Increased mobility in the seat to reveal objects that may have been temporarily obstructed.
- Pivot points, which will clearly demonstrate that they must turn this larger vehicle differently than an automobile.
- Space management — objects to the right become players in routine driving.
- The proper setup and increased utilization of several mirrors during routine driving.
- Approaching, entering and exiting intersections differently (transporting passengers) than a less-occupied passenger vehicle.
- The approaching, entering, servicing, and departing of both obstructed and unobstructed bus stops.
- Utilizing directional signals with the left foot.
- An oversized steering wheel, steering and the dangers of having hands on the spokes of the steering wheel.
- The need for increased clearance to accommodate a lane change.
- The importance of 'covering' and 'returning to the right' during routine driving.
- Mastering the 'big picture' which will lead to understanding the 'early warning tipoff,' rather than having to rely on one's reaction time. Usually by then it's too late.
Recognizing the hazard, understanding the defense and acting correctly in time to avoid the occurrence will allow one to acknowledge a potential hazard in ample time to take the correct action.
Covering these dynamic differences during the training process in a well-structured standardized format will allow the cream to rise to the top and eliminate those not qualified to operate a bus in passenger/customer service. The end result is a win-win for all.
Soon after reaching my 20th year in the transit industry, back in 1993, after a draining day of addressing routine bus issues, I would cross paths with another employee, who I always remember, seemed to be quietly “doing his own little daily gig.”
Years ago, I was with Louie Maiello when someone walked over and asked him for some advice: “We’re having problems with people remembering to secure the bus before they leave their seat. Do you have any advice? How can we get them to remember?” Without missing a beat, Louie said “PIN it.” The advice seeker happened to be a veteran mechanic, so he understood and walked away to resume his work. I stood there for a while scratching my head. Pin it?
Diagnose, Prescribe & Follow-Up, are the usual doctor’s actions that are utilized when visiting the doctor’s office for whatever is ailing us. This formula should also apply within your training department with regard to the ailment of Bus Collisions.
If we encourage our operators to treat operating a bus as a shift-long Zen moment, we may be able to reduce preventable crashes by a significant amount. The “Zen Operator,” who drives precisely at all times, is also less stressed. The Zen Operator flows through difficult, tight situations easily and their body language and vibe give passengers a sense of confidence. The operator whose passengers have a white-knuckle death grip on the back of the seat in front of them is not practicing “Zen Bus Operation.”
Ah, summer. Pool parties, barbecues, the smell of honeysuckle and the sight of lightning bugs. Or — a rise in crime, agitated riders seeking air conditioning, heat stroke, a new fiscal year, and the necessary, but unpopular, fare increases. However you view the summer months, with a direct correlation between high temperatures and increased crime, it's vital for transit leaders to be asking themselves, "Have we done everything possible to keep our people safe?"