When considering whether to make an exception in your bus operator training program to provide "extra training" (beyond what the training program offers) to a trainee who may have been close to qualifying but failed to, be warned that this can open the door to a flood of others who were terminated now demanding the same courtesy applied to them. Would you be prepared to have them all return for extra training? Perhaps, hundreds of others who were dismissed based on an unsatisfactory evaluation at the completion of their training within the prescribed set of training days would have qualified if they were trained until they got it. Extended training does not produce better operators.
Bus operator training programs should contain a well-balanced spread of properly placed skill sets, which spoon-feed a new trainee to enable him or her to demonstrate their qualification for passenger service. This should be accomplished within — not beyond — the established amount of available training days. I am against additional training that would be given beyond the final day within the prescribed training period. "Train them until they get it" is a dangerous concept that leads to an overall rise in collisions and places a trainee in an environment (passenger service) unprepared for the challenges ahead. If the student cannot perform according to the standards of the authority within the set amount of training days, they must be released. Final is final.
It has been my experience that a required minimum of eight hours and 45 minutes per trainee of uninterrupted, basic skill live-bus training produced the cream of the crop of operators, while the maximum amount of training did not exceed 12 hours and 30 minutes. Late to qualify from the training bus can result in early first incidents. Check the probationary period, and see if those who required the maximum amount of training days to qualify were involved in incidents sooner than those who qualified within the minimum amount of required training days. Don't be surprised if you determine that trainees who qualified the earliest performed incident free for a longer period than those who required all of the available training days before qualifying. Stay fair, stay balanced. If a trainee has not earned a satisfactory evaluation after completing the final day of training, then they should be released from the program. No exceptions, it's over.
To provide better focus with regard to behind-the-wheel skills, hold off on the classroom portion of training until those who are able to satisfactorily operate the authority's vehicle according to authority standards are identified. Only after successfully qualifying on the basic-skill driving portion first, should a trainee move on to a now meaningful classroom environment. Classroom topics will now have meaning and purpose. Placing them in a classroom before determining if they can operate the vehicle can be a waste of time, money and resources. Being consistently fair and balanced with your training and curriculum will also clearly reveal to trainees, who are facing dismissal, those deficiencies that prevented them from advancing in the program.
I can tell you the most reassuring words confirming that you are running a fair and balanced program come from the trainee who failed to earn a satisfactory evaluation and is facing termination, but saying, "thank you for the opportunity, your program is fair to all, your instructors were fair and it was obvious I lacked the basic skills to succeed."
In a profession where serious and sometimes fatal injuries can be inflicted at the blink of an eye, a fair and balanced training program is not a choice but a standard to which all should adhere.
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Maintaining customer service as paratransit grows" here.
If we encourage our operators to treat operating a bus as a shift-long Zen moment, we may be able to reduce preventable crashes by a significant amount. The “Zen Operator,” who drives precisely at all times, is also less stressed. The Zen Operator flows through difficult, tight situations easily and their body language and vibe give passengers a sense of confidence. The operator whose passengers have a white-knuckle death grip on the back of the seat in front of them is not practicing “Zen Bus Operation.”
Ah, summer. Pool parties, barbecues, the smell of honeysuckle and the sight of lightning bugs. Or — a rise in crime, agitated riders seeking air conditioning, heat stroke, a new fiscal year, and the necessary, but unpopular, fare increases. However you view the summer months, with a direct correlation between high temperatures and increased crime, it's vital for transit leaders to be asking themselves, "Have we done everything possible to keep our people safe?"
The RMS occurred last month in Albany, N.Y. and it was a truly remarkable learning experience for those in attendance. The RMS serves as a one-of-a-kind event that brings together transit risk management professionals from all across the country to focus on key topics related to safety, risk management, planning and prevention.
I recently attended, and had the opportunity to be part of a panel of speakers, at the NYC MTA Bus Safety Symposium. A variety of topics were discussed regarding bus and pedestrian safety issues. What was obvious is we all have a common goal to provide the safest transit systems possible, in spite of the possibility of increasing bus/pedestrian and bus/cyclist collisions.
I have had it with the never-ending meeting of the minds on the predominant causes of left-turn bus-pedestrian collisions. This whole issue is getting obscured with presentations that slice and dice every possible cause of these incidents into a collection of symbols, numbers and formulas. Please stop.