One of the first things instructors should do whenever a new type of bus arrives on site is to locate its pivot point.
Let's simplify the definition of 'pivot point.' The pivot point is the specific location on a bus that an object must align with before the operator attempts to overtake that object, whether it is a vehicle, sign, etc. Attempting to overtake the object — fixed, pedestrian, double parked vehicle — before that object reaches the pivot point locations mentioned below by bus model, will result in making contact with that object. Let's look at the various pivot point locations on some buses.
- 40ft. RTS/Orion- Center of rear tires
- 45ft. MCI- Midpoint between 2 sets of rear tires
- 60ft. Articulated- Center of Articulated Joint (Accordion)
Would someone like to volunteer the location of the pivot point on a 30ft. and 35ft. model bus?
Let's put this to use. A very powerful lesson of the do's and don'ts of overtaking fixed objects and eliminating curb strikes or mounting curbs while turning should be demonstrated on the first day your students begin training on the training bus. Along with learning mirror setup/utilization, air brake familiarity, interior and exterior pre-trip inspection, getting permission — getting the object to align with the pivot point of his or her bus — should be a new phrase that students learn. Once this is accomplished, students will get into the habit of seeking permission before attempting to move around fixed objects.
Those of you with a driver training simulator can perform this all-important exercise during a serpentine course conducted around pillar columns, which appear in some virtual driving worlds. Pillars support the overhead elevated train tracks in cities like New York and Chicago, just to name a few, and provide an ideal location to practice this critical movement. If you don't have this type of training set up on your bus simulator, contact your simulator provider.
Go to your training area and bring a rubber cone. Place it next to the pivot point — depending on the bus models above. Let's use the 40-foot bus, for example, by placing the cone as close as you like alongside the center of the right rear outside tire — the left rear outside tire can be used for a left-side demonstration. Have your students stand by the right rear corner of the bus near the right rear taillight looking down the right side of the bus. They should have a good view of the closeness of the cone to the right outside tire. With you in the operator's seat, take the wheel and lock the steering wheel to the right then slowly begin to move. What your students will see is that from the point where you placed the cone and back, this area will move around the cone with no contact.
Give the cone a name.
From that point forward in your training, consider any object they attempt to overtake a person. If they feel they are overtaking a person, it keeps them a little more focused on the task at hand. Once you have established your point of not having contact as long as you get the object to the pivot point, move the cone forward a few feet toward the rear doors. Get back in the bus and once again lock the steering wheel to the right. With the students watching, attempt to move right again. Before moving slowly, lock the wheel right. This time the bus will make contact with the object. This comes in handy when working with shifters/drillers in tight depot areas. You will be surprised how much damage can occur by moving buses around a depot during the late hours. Damage appears during a morning pull-out pre-trip that was not present on the post-trip during the previous evening's pull-in.
Allow each student/operator to move around the cone/simulated pillars moving left and right using the 'getting permission' theory. Walk them through one or two sets of cones then allow them to do it on their own, unassisted. It's important they demonstrate that they comprehend the reason behind getting permission. Remember, they must learn to look right or left before moving right or left!
- Permission is granted to move around the fixed object only when being aligned with the pivot point. Result = NO CONTACT!
- Permission is denied to move around the fixed object — where there is minimal clearance between the pivot point and the fixed object — before being aligned with the pivot point. Result = CONTACT!
Today I’d like to mention a few effective policies that were routinely utilized in the past, which were (and for the few agencies that still practice them) very effective in producing safe bus operators, including covering your right, terminal checks and company vehicles.
Operating a fixed-route bus in today’s distracted world requires high levels of focus and concentration. The brain must continually sift through loads of information during bus operation to determine what things can be ignored and what things pose a potential threat to our safety and well-being. Once the brain detects a potential hazard or threat, a specific response must occur to keep us from harm’s way. When our brains are forced to sustain this level of effort for long periods of time a great deal of energy is required.
It’s no secret that I am a firm believer in bus simulator training. I enjoyed the benefits of utilizing simulators as a supplemental training tool during my days at New York City Transit. The simulators helped us produce outstanding results by targeting specific outcomes. If your simulator training is not producing what you expected it to deliver, the answer is plain and simple: something is wrong!
One agency decided to conduct a “safety blitz” to determine whether mirrors were being set correctly and discovered, much to their surprise, that a growing number of operators were leaving the yard in a mad rush to avoid being late — deciding to adjust their mirrors at their first available opportunity. What they learned was that many of these operators left the yard with every intention of setting their mirrors correctly. However, once these operators began servicing their routes — the task appeared to "slip their minds."
In most organizations, 80% to 95% of all bus operators are found to be safe, reliable and courteous, but often, they don’t know it because nobody tells them. If safe bus operation represents a core value for your property, what are you leaders doing to encourage and reinforce the desired behaviors among your bus operators?