While some transit agencies are cutting back or even eliminating service to save money, why not begin looking at the bottom line with student operators, during and at the completion of their behind-the-wheel training. Identifying poor performers during training and separating them prior to graduation can contribute greatly to overall safety improvements for the training department and, reduce claims. Releasing students at the completion of an unsatisfactory driver training performance will ensure that they will not be part of an agency's collision statistics.
Are transit agencies simply wasting dollars by having student operators sit in a classroom at the beginning of their training, rather than concentrating on learning the driving skills first on the training bus? If the trainee is unable to perform satisfactorily in the driving skills portion, information given in a classroom early in the training program will become meaningless. It's at this time they must be released from the training program.
Identifying those with driving skills first can increase the number of qualifying students who will benefit from uninterrupted daily driving thereby, saving training dollars. By leaving the classroom portion of training until after washing out those who failed the driving skills portion, you can ensure that every possible opportunity is given to the student to succeed. The uninterrupted daily driving will quickly present a picture to the instructor and the student as to who may or may not advance beyond the behind-the-wheel stage of training.
After orientation day paperwork, get rolling on the training bus and remain there until you have identified students who have qualified in the basic skill driving portion, as well as those who have exhausted the available amount of training and must resign for failing to qualify. Any instruction given in the classroom before determining if they can pass the driving portion will mean nothing to those who do not satisfactorily demonstrate the driving skills first.
Once the washout has occurred, classroom training can begin. The class will be meaningful and consist of those having one thing in common; they have all passed the driving portion. If you can't drive, you won't have to worry about being around for any classroom activities. Fewer supplies and resources will be needed, and a little savings here and there can add up. At the same time, only those who have first demonstrated the ability to drive are the ones advancing into depot line/route training and, eventually, to driving on their own.
The per-student training cost is wasted if every opportunity is not given to complete training successfully, or by the failure of the training department in not identifying, early on in training, those students who should never advance to passenger service.
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?