As the winter months arrive, ridership is up for many transit properties across the country, with some reporting as much as a 5 percent to 8 percent spike. Unfortunately, this increase can also come with a spike in collisions.
When hiring new bus operators in a short period of time to satisfy the latest service requirements, let's make sure you are not overlooking some of the things that you normally would not have in the training and qualifying process of a new hire. If ever there was a time to ensure that your students are performing to your satisfaction, it is now. If you are simply looking at satisfying the hiring requirement numbers as quickly as possible, be warned: it will come back to burn you in the form of a collision statistic.
This training and qualification process is not about making friends or having to worry about hurting someone's feelings. This is one of the few jobs where an employee must be 100 percent accurate in every decision made during a day's work. Anything less can cost someone's life. Let's look at a few ways to make sure you are prepared for the rush of new hires, and that they are prepared to proceed to passenger service as equipped as possible.
Your most common types of collisions are out there waiting to happen to that new probationary operator. If you have one, you can expose your student to this exact type of collision on a driver training simulator before they experience it on the live bus. Naturally, it is the responsibility of you and every other instructor to know what your most popular type of collision is at your agency. Without all, and I repeat all, of the instructional staff knowing what that collision is, there can be no effective standardized corrective action applications to administer.
Without standardized corrections in place, your situation will remain the same then eventually get worse. Do you have a specific corrective action application in place for every type of collision, whether it is with a vehicle, fixed object or pedestrian, that may occur at your property? It should be a short but concise 'training episode' to be administered in the simulator that will reveal to the student the:
Cause - The incorrect actions taken by the student which led to the incident.
Corrective Action Application - The correct way of doing it to minimize a future occurrence.
Successful Application - Allowing them to apply the corrective action without incident.
Some of the benefits of applying simple but concise corrective action applications to every type of collision/knockdown that your agency is experiencing will reduce your overall collision numbers and deliver a well-trained and well-prepared student to passenger service.
Start them right and plant the seed of good habits!
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?