Up this month from the bus barn: “Post Training” review programs and how they support a “Hire to Retire” commitment toward operator training and development
Upon the completion of a new bus operator training class, only those students that have demonstrated the knowledge and basic skills necessary to advance to “route familiarization” and “passenger service” training should remain. This was achieved by disqualifying potentially unsafe students at the completion of the allotted training days, as defined by the training program. Those candidates that advanced through the training process have achieved something that both they the student and their instructors should be proud of.
All too often what was taught during the initial period can get diluted by what other operators may be saying or doing. Well-meaning veterans sometimes offer advice in an effort to “help” new operators that might be inconsistent with what was just taught to them on the training bus. Would you even recognize your past students by their driving performance? Do they resemble the student that you personally qualified into passenger service? If you had to think about the answer to those questions, chances are this blog is for you.
For those agencies with a large influx of operators with little experience in passenger service, usually with less than two years or three years behind the wheel, Post-Training Review programs can be an effective means to greatly improve your overall safety numbers and will help to minimize the eventual spike in collisions that usually occur within this group.
A condensed overview is provided below that addresses three programs that can be implemented at your agency. There are several more that can be listed, but we will focus on these three for now. Such programs are meant to assist your agency in achieving the safety performance numbers that we all strive for in the business of transporting “live” freight on a daily basis:
1. Probationary Review: This is by far the most critical period for management to determine if the performance standards are being applied consistently by the probationary operator and immediately identify and halt — early on — those behaviors that have begun to surface, which will result in an unsafe operator and contribute to an “at-risk” pedestrian environment. Observation rides are critical during this early period of an operator’s career. As part of this close monitoring process, continued and routine communication between depot management and training department management must occur.
2. Performance Monitoring Program: Training personnel should identify the percentage of total operators that are contributing to the collision pool. When reaching an unacceptable number of collisions during a specific time frame — both which are set by the Safety & Training Departments — a mutually agreed upon plan of corrective action would then be implemented and applied to those operators that were identified as individuals that needed to receive the remedy.
3. Refresher Program: Let's not forget the importance of a “Refresher” Program. An annual refresher is so critical in promoting a “Hire to Retire” training mentality. Talk to your operators. Acknowledge their good work in performing one of the most, if not the most, difficult public service positions. Show concern regarding the challenges of our distracted world and have them feel that a visit to engage with training personnel when they are involved in an incident will be a positive experience and not a humiliating one. Be stern when you need to be and respectful at all times. Administer a “Corrective Action” that will be directly applicable to the type of incident that occurred.
As stated above, there are other programs that can, and should, be utilized that I don't have the space to list here, but I think you get the idea. This is not to suggest that these programs are not already in place at your property, so if you do have them established — please share some comments regarding the benefits.
In closing, the days of only seeing “the boss” when you did something wrong should be long gone. Think “Hire to Retire” not “Time to be fired!”
Louie is the former director of training for the New York City Transit Dept. of Buses Safety & Training Division and 2003 NTI Fellow. Currently, he is sr. consultant/SME in transit training & bus simulation at L-3 D.P. Associates and independent consultant at "Bus Talk" Surface Transit Solutions.
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Read our previous blog, "Are fearful, lurking parents a reason for uninspired transportation choice?"
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!
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.