During these tough economic times there may be a friend or loved one you know who is waiting to be called to begin a career in transit, perhaps as a bus operator. To make the best of that opportunity, I will provide some information to share with them.
What actually does the job involve?
Bus operators, under general supervision:
- Operate a transit bus transporting passengers in accordance with the rules and regulations of the transit agency.
- Ensure proper payment of fares, and at some transit properties, issue and collect transfers.
- Make visual inspections of buses.
- Write reports concerning revenues, accidents, faulty equipment and unusual occurrences.
- Work in various weather conditions.
- Communicate with customers.
- Attempt to maintain a schedule.
Some of the requirements will pertain to the following items.
- Driver's License: If a serious moving violation, license suspension, or an accident record is present, it may result in a disqualification.
- Medical: Medical guidelines have been established for the position of Bus Operator. An examination will be administered to determine whether one can perform the essential functions of the position of bus operator.
- Drug Screening: Passing a drug screening to be appointed.
- Residency: Some transit agencies have a residency requirement.
- English Language: Being able to understand and be understood in English.
- Background Check: Criminal and driving records, past employment, and education.
* NEVER misrepresent any information that is requested. If misrepresentations are discovered, one will be dismissed - it is that simple.
Driving experience levels of a candidate:
Training candidates with experience limited to only operating an automobile come with basic driving skills. They must build on this level of driving and adapt several new skills to accommodate the larger vehicle, along with the addition of transporting passengers/customers.
Training candidates with experience operating large vehicles should imply that there already is an understanding of the clearance allowances that must be made with a larger vehicle in turning and overall road presence, etc., but in most cases, a deprogramming process is necessary to eliminate bad habits and educate them to realize that they must now operate the transit agency's vehicle according to the standards of the training department. Many times it is those with prior experience who cannot lose those bad habits during the training window and must be let go. However, those who do adapt will become even better.
Candidates who assume that they will automatically advance beyond the training bus because of past experience might make a huge mistake.
As most instructors will admit, (at least those I have been associated with) the final question they asked themselves before making the call on a student is "Will I feel comfortable having a member of my family on this student's bus?" The instructor will be looking to see if adjustments have been made that now enable the student to operate the bus in passenger service according to the standards of the training department.
Things to consider:
- Bus Operations is not for everyone. This is a fact. Once they begin training they may realize that this type of employment is not for them. There is no reson to be ashamed or fearful. They should simply let their decision be known and resign rather than being terminated.
- Equip themselves with a reliable watch. Since their daily activity will revolve around a schedule, a reliable watch is an important and required tool.
- Rest. Adequate sleep is an absolute must.
- Punctuality. Arrive at least 20 minutes to 30 minutes before the scheduled report time. Reporting late can result in being disciplined and sent home without pay.
- Training bus behavior. Be observant, take notes, ask questions and listen to the instructor.
I hope this information helps someone.
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?
Those of you who take a few minutes each month to follow my blogs, or have attended one of my past presentations at transit events, first let me thank you. These blogs and presentations, in combination, have been promoting surface transit standards in a form of a standardized curriculum for over 10 years now. I ask you, are we not long overdue in getting transit specific standards a done deal? By the time of this posting, I would have again stood before a group of transit professionals at a recently attended transit function in Orlando, Fla., speaking on this exact topic.
A final day should mean exactly that, the end — no more — learning opportunities that had been available no longer exist. The clock has run out. Hopefully, there is a final day designated for trainees at your agency, a time where you draw the line and make a decision, because, as we all know, not everyone can operate a bus. For the trainee, the final day is the most pressure-packed day they will spend on the training bus. Any student entering their final day should be well-prepared and fully aware of what they are faced with, as all of the requirements should have been clearly covered as part of their first day orientation. Remember, no surprises!