There should come a time during each new student’s training bus instruction, when instructor-led skill development turns to student demonstration and “Show Time” begins. It is during this time that the student must perform for the instructor. I call this a “Show Me” day.
A training bus that was mainly dominated by the instructor, administering and demonstrating the required skills to each student, now belongs to the student. The student will be required to perform the required tasks covered during training at a satisfactory level in order to advance into passenger service.
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Approaching qualification day with all tasks having been covered, instructors should now be prepared to determine whether their students have reached the level of being able to operate the bus without the comfort of having the instructor present should the instructor’s decision be a “go.” This is one of two critical questions instructors must ask themselves.
If you are a steadfast reader of my blogs you know what the other question is. If the student still requires corrective action instruction this late in training, this is a clear indicator that the student has not reached the acceptable level of proficiency required by the instructor to qualify as a bus operator.
Approaching (and during) “Show Me” day, the voice that I want to hear speaking most frequently is that of the student. Here are some examples of what I would expect to hear coming from the student with regard to:
• Forward Planning Skills - I want the student to verbally identify any potential hazards observed while scanning ahead and what actions may be required to implement.
• Scanning and Identifying - When approaching a turn, I want to verbally hear from the student any pedestrians that may be a potential hazard to the student either before or during the turn. (This is especially critical due to left-side pedestrian knockdown issues.)
• Observation Skills - How soon after you (the experienced instructor with the trained eye) does the student identify a potential hazard? (This a key indicator in determining if their observation skills are where they need to be)
• Clearances - Awareness of all required clearances. Ex: front overhead and sides.
Assuming the level of competency associated with the “behind the wheel” portion of training has reached the acceptable level, and combining that with the hopefully accurate and timely verbal information described above, this presents a good indication that the student is rounding into form and is on the verge of entering passenger service. Towards the end of training, the student must perform the skills that require them to attain a “Qualified” evaluation unassisted — without instructor intervention.
If your training bus curriculum is solid and skills to be taught are laid out in a manner that gradually increase in the level of difficulty as the training progresses, any State testing that occurs after training bus instruction has been conducted, should be easily handled by the student. Your training program should exceed the level of difficulty of any outside testing conducted after your training has been completed.
In closing, if the instructor is still doing most of the talking on “Show Me” day, additional training may be necessary only if there are training days still available. Hopefully, your training program has a final day to either: qualify, resign, or be terminated. The training should not continue on forever until the student finally “gets it.”
Silence on decision day is a good thing to hear when determining whether to advance a student!
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, Why is no one offering same-day paratransit service?
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!