Among the most difficult tasks for a new student bus operator to perform on the training bus is a “right turn into a bus stop.” On a scale of one to five, with five being most difficult, I rank it a five. Right turns, in general, rank at the top of the list, but having to successfully enter a bus stop “immediately” after a right turn comes as a result of several instructional steps — demonstrated properly by the trainer.
Let's break it down:
Preparation for the turn should begin well before the bus arrives at the intersection where the turn will be conducted. Those followers of my blogs throughout the years are familiar with me stating the student should conduct a “mental snapshot” of the approaching intersection to determine what hazards might be in place. Work crews, barriers, unusual circumstances and so forth may cause the student to have to make several positioning moves to set up the right turn. This is true forward planning.
The all-important “setup” will determine whether the turn is made successfully. Having to back up due to incorrect setup of the turn is something that should not be encouraged. It is difficult enough navigating a bus forward.
Power steering, incorrect setup and improper utilization of bus mirrors, as well as a need to keep a schedule, (Remember — Safety, Service, Schedule) can and usually will lead to onboard injuries, mounting the curb with the right rear tires or pedestrian/vehicle/fixed object contact. The following hazards apply whether or not a right turn will be made into a bus stop or is simply a normal right turn:
- Those motorists immediately to the left of the bus that may attempt a sweeping right turn in front of bus and cause the student/operator to make an abrupt brake application leading to onboard injuries.
- Turning into a narrow two-way street, where left side clearance becomes an issue due to oncoming vehicles positioned close to the center lane divider. This can cause the student/operator to oversteer back to the right before adequate clearance has been achieved, causing right rear tires to mount curb and putting fixed objects and pedestrians in danger.
- Pedestrians crossing in front of bus from either side.
The best advice I can give is to not think “bus stop” entry until the decision is made the turn “is a go.” This is determined after ensuring proper right rear clearance is in place. “Walk” the bus around the corner covering the brake while scanning to ensure right rear curb/pivot clearance, then at this time think about the next maneuver; bus stop entry and positioning.
As the bus moves into the bus stop, determine the safest location for customers to alight and board. The bus should be positioned straight at the curb, and in those instances where the bus stop is obstructed and you must stop away from the curb, the bus kneeler must be deployed in your final stopping position. This should reflect a straight bus not angled with nose in and with the rear tucked in and not extending outward in the path of traffic.
In closing, this is a great exercise to bring into a supplemental training tool, such as a bus simulator. This will remove the threat of physical harm and allow for greater repetition to promote proficiency. With the simulator playing a crucial role in the mastery of an exercise, such as described above, the person who conducts the training is extremely important. Those agencies considering the purchase of a simulator will want to evaluate the qualifications of the instructor who will be training your staff how to use it effectively.
Having hands on experience with the type of vehicle that will be introduced with the simulator should be high on the list of a customer’s expectations. It would be for me. Your students, training staff and riding public deserve nothing less. If driving a 20- to 30-ton vehicle with “live” freight was that simple, then there would be no failures after training has completed.
Attempting to safely maintain a schedule, transporting customers, dealing with the environment, distracted pedestrians and more are just part of a mind-boggling set of job requirements and require only the best training. A simulator instructor should be at least as good as you are and nothing less. What do you know about that person? Find out whether they can maneuver a bus effectively before you get too far along with your purchasing efforts.
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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!