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.
Recent national incidents have put increased attention on safe commuting and what passengers can do to protect themselves during a transit emergency. “The most important tip anyone can follow is to wait for the instructions of the crew,” said Scott Sauer, chief system safety officer for SEPTA. “Crews know the equipment best and have been trained to safely remove passengers from vehicles should the situation warrant evacuation...
Are you getting frustrated because — in spite of what you’re doing — collisions are not dropping at your agency? With just a few tweaks, you can make a difference. If you are a chief training officer, training director, instructor or equivalent at your agency, then this message is for you.
I may be all alone on this one, but I discovered that my kids (who were not allowed to play “shooter” video games) developed a distinct style of driving (and a lot of unsafe habits) while playing their video driving games as pre-teens and young teenagers. In fact, I wound up spending a great deal of my time trying to undo these habits and deep set tendencies while my boys still had their learner's permits.
Technology was not in my vocabulary as a kid, but now it's at the front of the line. I’m not saying I’m against it, but could we step back a moment and catch our breath when it comes to technology and bus operations? It seems what used to be a fairly unobstructed view of the road ahead, and to the sides of the bus using simple dashboards and adequately sized mirrors, now appears to resemble a cockpit of the world’s most sophisticated aircraft.
Congratulations to METRO Magazine on celebrating its 110th year of serving the rail and transit industry! I was excited and, frankly, stunned to learn that I was named one of METRO’s 20 “Most Influential People of the Decade” as part of the magazine’s observance of this milestone. Being included in the company of these well-known and respected transportation professionals and policymakers is a rewarding and humbling experience, and underscores the benefits of working together to further improve the safety and efficiency of public transportation.