From the bus barn this month, I will be touching on the importance of proper documentation with regard to the basic skills performance of the student bus operator on the training bus. Going hand in hand with a standardized curriculum should be a standardized way of documenting student performance. When putting pen to paper, be sure an instructor’s documentation can be clearly understood by others who may need to refer back to it at a future date. Proper documentation is critical in the case of a student operator who may attempt to dispute a dismissal and may want to protest and pursue some type of legal options to challenge an instructor’s final evaluation.
Let's take a look at the “7-10 day front loaded” skill development driving program, which in my opinion is the most effective, revealing, and best manner in which to train and produce world class operators. For the student, “Training Bus-Day One” should be a “Familiarization Day.” The student will be familiarized with specific tasks that should be introduced and demonstrated by the instructor. Because the student is simply being “Familiarized,” the overall evaluation options of “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” should not yet apply. A “Yes” box is sufficient. Simply put, your Day One documentation should reflect that “Yes,” the student was “Familiarized.” Early on, and after Day One, during the “initial instructional training” phase of training bus basic skill development, the “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” check-off options will become applicable to the student’s daily performance.
Every “Unsatisfactory” check-off should be accompanied with a brief statement as to what occurred behind the wheel that justified the “Unsatisfactory” result. As the training moves on to the “Show Me” phase of training, which should occur during the final days of training, again any “Unsatisfactory” check-off should be supported with documentation, utilizing the words “student failed to” properly execute the action that was required.
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Example: Student “failed to” properly perform the interior and exterior pre-trip inspection. Another example, such as following too closely behind another vehicle, student ‘failed to’ provide sufficient following distance.
Refrain from “sugar coated” documentation, which is the case when using “would have, could have and should have” in situations when a specific maneuver or skill was not performed correctly.
Example: In the case of a student operator who is proceeding too closely alongside a parked vehicle, stating the student “could have” positioned the bus further away from parked vehicle is weak documentation.
Instead, use stronger, more direct documentation that would read: Student “failed to” provide sufficient clearance between bus and parked vehicle right of bus.
Words like “excessive,” “insufficient,” “improper” and “failed to” should be standard training bus vocabulary utilized by the instructional staff. Needless to say, if any of these words appear on the final day of training, the “Qualified” box should not contain a check mark. If it does, this creates a documented contradiction.
In the case of a student who has been rated an “unsatisfactory – not qualified”, the final day comment should read, “According to the Standards of the Training Department of this Agency, student is “not qualified and not recommended” to advance into Passenger Service.” At this point, with all available training days exhausted, resignation or termination become the only two options available for the student. Having a set of properly documented tasking sheets available on file will justify the dismissal or resignation and becomes the glue that keeps a dismissal intact.
In closing, I recommend that all daily tasking sheets — and not just the final day tasking sheet — be completed in triplicate and signed by both the instructor and student. The master copy will become part of the student folder, the second copy given to the student, and the final copy is retained by the instructor.
A brief ‘one-on-one” verbal summary with each student — at the end of each training day — allows the instructor to inform them which skills still require further improvement. This “wrap up” should become part of the daily routine.
Remember: Instructors need to point out any unsatisfactory action at the precise moment it occurs to minimize any surprise reaction that a student may demonstrate during the verbal summary and review of the day’s tasking sheet. Instructors should quickly document exactly what occurred whenever an unsatisfactory action is observed. This will allow the proper detail to be recorded while it's still fresh in their minds, such as what happened, where it happened and at what time of day. This will preserve a mental snapshot for the instructor should they need to re-read their statement at a later date, and also, ensure that daily evaluations are accurate and complete — containing all that occurred during “behind the wheel” training activities. No exceptions.
So...... when it comes to documentation, “If it ain't in writing, it ain't!”
What safety issues would you like Louie to discuss? Send suggestions to [email protected] and maybe he will take up the subject in a future Safety Corner.
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One agency decided to conduct a “safety blitz” to determine whether mirrors were being set correctly and discovered, much to their surprise, that a growing number of operators were leaving the yard in a mad rush to avoid being late — deciding to adjust their mirrors at their first available opportunity. What they learned was that many of these operators left the yard with every intention of setting their mirrors correctly. However, once these operators began servicing their routes — the task appeared to "slip their minds."
In most organizations, 80% to 95% of all bus operators are found to be safe, reliable and courteous, but often, they don’t know it because nobody tells them. If safe bus operation represents a core value for your property, what are you leaders doing to encourage and reinforce the desired behaviors among your bus operators?
Those of you who take a few minutes each month to follow my blogs, or have attended one of my past presentations at transit events, first let me thank you. These blogs and presentations, in combination, have been promoting surface transit standards in a form of a standardized curriculum for over 10 years now. I ask you, are we not long overdue in getting transit specific standards a done deal? By the time of this posting, I would have again stood before a group of transit professionals at a recently attended transit function in Orlando, Fla., speaking on this exact topic.
A final day should mean exactly that, the end — no more — learning opportunities that had been available no longer exist. The clock has run out. Hopefully, there is a final day designated for trainees at your agency, a time where you draw the line and make a decision, because, as we all know, not everyone can operate a bus. For the trainee, the final day is the most pressure-packed day they will spend on the training bus. Any student entering their final day should be well-prepared and fully aware of what they are faced with, as all of the requirements should have been clearly covered as part of their first day orientation. Remember, no surprises!