From the 'Bus Barn' this month arises two very important concerns regarding the use of bus simulator supplemental training: performance management and the role of the simulator instructor. During the past year, I had the pleasure of visiting and conducting several train the trainer sessions at transit agencies in North America and Canada. I was pleased to see the passion among the trainers, as this is a necessary ingredient.
Those who I worked with came to understand the critical relationship between themselves, their existing live bus training curriculum and their simulator training system. Each agency should have an idea of what they will be trying to accomplish at the onset of the powerful duo of live and simulator training. Using a simulator as a replacement for live training is short-sighted and will not yield the results you seek. Their relationship should be complementary in delivering basic skills and corrective actions.
With a lead instructor at the helm, he or she quarterbacks the training and ensures that a plan is in place to achieve the best possible results. The simulator must be an extension of the training bus, not a replacement. It can be the next step after a video has captured improper driving behavior. It's one thing observing a problem, but you now need to fix it! For me, the simulator provided a low-risk environment to focus on high-risk driving situations.
The transfer of knowledge between these two training types must not be compromised. This responsibility falls on the simulator staff. They must be selected only after great consideration. It begins with them. Any training tool in the hands of an unqualified instructor, who is lacking the proper skills, is not confident in their teaching ability and is not producing positive results is an indicator that the wrong person is on the training staff. The support of the chief training officer and his or her belief in simulation training is the cornerstone of a successful simulation program. Accountability and collision reduction is a must.
Performance management is not limited to the trainee. Instructors should be routinely evaluated by tracking the performance of each instructor's trainees that were advanced to passenger/customer service. Are instructors making the correct calls? Can they make the tough calls on deciding if the combination of simulator and live bus training served its purpose as justification to advance a trainee into passenger service? If not, they need to be reassigned away from this type of training. Simulation training is as effective as the training staff that uses it. I do not have the space here to explain all the ingredients that go into simulation training for surface transit, such as where to introduce it in your curriculum, the amount of simulator training sessions, what is the most effective amount of time one should be exposed to this type of training and how to deal with other aspects of simulator operations, such as scheduling, etc.
Questions arise over what the other trainees do while awaiting their drive time due to another trainee occupying the simulator? Are they engaged in any way with the occupier of the simulator? Are those watching from outside the simulator at an advantage or disadvantage? Should they, and how can they, be engaged in someone else's drive time? When instructors experience the occasional trainee that cannot get comfortable in a simulator environment, how should that be handled?
As you can see, a simulator is a program unto itself and deserves thoughtful planning of its use to derive the most benefit from it.
Hmmm... much to think about. Thoughts anyone? Does your simulator training program need a spark?
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Looking ahead to the New Year," 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?