With regard to bus operations, a "cradle to grave"philosophy (CTGP) between employer and employee requires a hands-on approach by the training department, not simply at the hiring stage, but throughout the career of the operator.
Does your agency have a program in place that requires bus operators to return to the training department for a MEANINGFUL annual/bi-annual refresher/re-certification day? At some agencies it is required. If your agency is equipped with a driving simulator, is the simulator being utilized for this training? If the only time an operator is 'touched' by the training department is at the start of their careers or whenever the operator is at fault, it's time to shrink the gap.
Once a student graduates and leaves the umbrella of their training center instructors, it should not take an incident to occur to warrant a return visit. A trip back to the training center should be a positive one and not always attached to a bad incident. Be sure when they leave at the end of the day, they have learned at least one additional thing that will improve their performance behind the wheel. Also, a "job well done" goes a long way in giving an operator a sense of appreciation in what they do. This is something all of us should do more often.
I know of a training agency that has had much success with their CTGP. Operators return back during their birth months. Their formula is a simple breakdown of operators by their birth month, then dividing that total for the month by 20 — the approximate monthly work days. For example, if you have 60 operators born in January, when you divide that by 20 you get three. This produces three operators per day returning to the training center in that particular birth month. Depending on the total amount of operators at one's agency, no operator would go more than a year or two before being "touched" by the training department. This is a great time to discuss corrective actions for particular incidents/collisions that have occurred. Here's where a simulator can provide a risk-free environment to tackle these issues.
Once released to passenger service, it doesn't take long for a new operator to become confronted with "You're in the real world now, that stuff they taught you at the training center don't work out here." Sound familiar? Operators need to be reminded of what awaits them if they align themselves with this type of thinking. This issue and other concerns can surface during these refresher visits. Many times, we are isolated at our cubicles and don't get out on the road as much as we like. Find time to get out on the road. Conduct unannounced safety blitzes. You might be surprised at what you discover.
Finally, if the training department is doing its homework and someone is assigned to patterns and trends regarding collisions, etc., this information should be shared with those returning birth month operators. Make them aware of what they are facing based on past trends with operators in their seniority range. Then, give them the corrective actions to prevent them from happening. This might be all it takes to keep these operators from becoming part of the statistics.
Get on board and have a corrective action ready and able to be administered for any collision/incident. Make it a team effort!
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: The coveted 'quiet zone,'" here.
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?