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.
When official-plated transit authority vehicles were scarce and basically reserved for those in upper management to go about their daily business to and from meetings, etc..., road control would be the responsibility of the “fixed-post foot dispatcher.” Not all of these positions have been eliminated, but I wonder if any readers remember the stability and sense of control that was present while the foot dispatcher was on post?
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."
Bus operators are not blindfolded. Operators are trained and required to identify potential hazards, based on their forward planning skills. With regard to left turns, these so called “blind spots” are really areas behind the left A-pillar/mirror that are “temporarily” obstructed to the operator, not blind to the operator. The key here is for the operators to utilize their observation and forward planning skills to minimize the time that their vision is temporarily obstructed. The pedestrian that regrettably becomes a victim of bus contact should be in the clear view of the operator long before arriving at the location where the contact occurred. Pedestrians are not “coming out of nowhere!"
The world is a very busy place. We rely on our eyes to provide us with information that will keep us from harm as we operate our vehicles. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of effective scanning in order to recognize potential hazards early enough so appropriate action can be taken to avoid conflict. As a result, we spend a lot of time advising operators how often they should scan their mirrors, where to look for hazards, and how to bring objects into view that may be temporarily obstructed, and so on.
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.