Bus simulation, ensuring its proper place in a training curriculum

Posted on February 6, 2014 by Louie Maiello - Also by this author

This topic builds on conversations I had with a variety of training professionals throughout 2013, so I hope this information helps those who were interested to know how to implement a simulator into an existing curriculum.

Accepting delivery of a bus simulator at a training facility is an exciting event. Upon installation, it proudly sits in its new home being admired by staff who anxiously awaits the ribbon cutting ceremony marking the beginning of a new way of training.

Hopefully, some thought has been given to what manner it will be utilized as well as what specifically simulator training will be expected to achieve, which will benefit the agency. These are questions that must be answered early on in the planning stages to ensure successful integration to an existing standardized curriculum.

Allow me to discuss some of the key questions that must be answered to effectively supplement your curriculum with a training tool, such as a simulator, and what key ingredients should be in place.

Let’s first examine use of a simulator in an existing new bus operator training program.

  • Will it be used for one of the following purposes?
  1. New operator “Basic Skill” development.
  2. Corrective Action.
  3. Annual Refresher.
  4. Collision Analysis.
  5. All of the above.

There are many uses for supplemental training with a simulator each of which can lead to obtaining the goal that you planned to achieve.

Here is something to consider:

  • What portion of the work force are you planning to help through simulator-based training?
  1. Senior operators.
  2. Those involved with collisions.
  3. Operators returning to work.
  4. Trainees.
  5. All of the above.
  • What is a training agency looking to achieve with simulator training?
  1. Reduction in claims.
  2. Collision reduction.
  3. Understand how to deal with “high risk” situations in a “low threat” environment.
  4. Establish a “new” No. 1 collision type by effectively resolving the current No. 1.
  5. All of the above

I have heard from those who claim that basic skills cannot be taught on a simulator, and I beg to differ. After spending the past 15 of my 40 years in transit being involved with bus simulator training, I can say without any reservation that basic skill development should be the “primary” focus of simulation training.

Reaction / judgment training has its place but it cannot be taught, only evaluated. Mastering the basic skills with the assistance of a simulator will ensure operators are well equipped to handle their duties during passenger service. This is the key: the ability to experience a high-risk situation in a low-risk environment.

As far as I'm concerned, a student trainee should most certainly be placed in a high-risk situation during training to prepare them for the challenges of the real world. The simulator will do this without causing physical harm. Therefore, situations can play out to their natural consequences without placing anyone in danger.

As I stated, assessment of reaction has its place, but if that's high on your list of reasons to purchase a simulator, then you may have your priorities in the wrong order. As a reminder, basic skill teaching on a simulator can only be successful if there is no contradiction in the “transfer of knowledge” from “live” bus training to simulator training. For this to be possible, the simulator must closely resemble the look and feel of a “live” training bus.

In closing, begin with a “Pilot Program” and sprinkle in the ingredients below and you will be well on your way:

  • Standardized curriculum.
  • Training consistency among the instructors.
  • An effective “Train the Trainer” program.
  • A “Corrective Action” program.
  • Final day of training “Automatic” disqualifiers.

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