Greetings! I would like to answer the following question sent to me and thank the transit professional for doing so:
"Just this week, we have had three bus accidents. One type of ‘repeater accident’ has been occurring in the garage involving the driver’s left rear side of our 45-foot [bus]. When turning right, the left rear driver’s side swings out and catches the roof support pole. The last two accidents took out the rear side glass. I need some preventive ideas.”
This is the classic overhang problem. These types of incidents have decreased dramatically over the years as a result of the well-lit, state-of-the-art depots being built and the additional training given to the shifters/drillers — individuals who, at the end of the day, take returning buses and place them in their overnight slots.
During the days of poorly lit, outdated, smaller depots, or ‘barns’ as they were once called, this type of contact within the obstruction-filled space occurred during the “Still of the Night.” Often, the damage was not noticed until a responsible operator on pull-out conducted a thorough pre-trip inspection the following morning. Some of you may remember the days prior to pre-trip inspections, when a ‘no knowledge’ response was usually the term that was used when being questioned about bus damage, in general.
Regarding the question, knowing your bus model dynamics (e.g., pivot points and mirror positioning) is just part of the solution. Some of the causes of these contacts occurring within the depots are:
1) Failure to check for insufficient clearance around the bus.
2) Failing to re-adjust mirrors upon relieving the departing operator.
3) Failing to stay alert and forward-plan around the trouble spot.
4) Oversteering to the right.
5) Speed, although I would hate to think that speed (especially in the depot) would be a contributor.
Consider the following:
1) Ensure that the pole is clearly visible, even if it means painting it a different color that would make it even more visible to alert the operator of this particular trouble spot.
2) Create a handout to be posted in the depots and around the garage pull-out area alerting all to this problem.
3) Bring all student operators around this turn and provide them with the opportunity to watch you negotiate around this area. Then, have them do it while alerting them to the importance of knowing your surroundings and the limitations of your bus.
4) Go to your outdoor training area and place a cone near the pivot point of each different size bus and show them the consequences of what happens when oversteering and not thoroughly understanding the different pivot points (not getting permission), by moving the cone from the pivot areas to a point that will create contact with the bus. You can also go to the simulator and create a scenario where, unlike in the depot, the low-risk environment of a simulator can effectively deal with a high-risk situation of contact with fixed objects.
An operator handout reminder for the garage/depot area can consist of the following points:
- How much clearance do I have?
- What model bus am I operating?
- Are my mirrors providing the info I need?
- What must I do differently?
- When in doubt, secure bus and GET OUT AND LOOK!
In case you missed it...
Read our METRO blog, "OCTA CEO: Congress, stop kicking transportation bill down the road" here.
Bus operators are not blindfolded. Operators are trained and required to identify potential hazards, based on their forward planning skills. With regard to left turns, these so called “blind spots” are really areas behind the left A-pillar/mirror that are “temporarily” obstructed to the operator, not blind to the operator. The key here is for the operators to utilize their observation and forward planning skills to minimize the time that their vision is temporarily obstructed. The pedestrian that regrettably becomes a victim of bus contact should be in the clear view of the operator long before arriving at the location where the contact occurred. Pedestrians are not “coming out of nowhere!"
The world is a very busy place. We rely on our eyes to provide us with information that will keep us from harm as we operate our vehicles. It is difficult to over-emphasize the importance of effective scanning in order to recognize potential hazards early enough so appropriate action can be taken to avoid conflict. As a result, we spend a lot of time advising operators how often they should scan their mirrors, where to look for hazards, and how to bring objects into view that may be temporarily obstructed, and so on.
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!