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.
Cover Your Right: I can still hear my instructor urging me to “cover my right.” I don’t hear these words today being utilized in my conversations with instructors. Contact occurring on the right side of the bus due to “sending an invitation” to a motorist to proceed with their vehicles along the bus’s unprotected right side was considered a preventable collision. “Covering the right” should be standard operating procedure. Remember, one factor utilized in determining whether a collision is preventable or non-preventable is determining if a standard operating procedure was violated. An exception to proceeding in the right lane would be due to overhead clearance issues where available overhead clearance may be reduced due to tree branches, etc… When adequate clearance is again available, the bus should immediately be returned to the right lane. There are many collisions occurring on the right side of the bus due to the bus operating in the middle lane. Last time I checked, bus stops were on the “right” side of the street. Having to deal with traffic on the left side of the bus is difficult enough. Having both the left and right sides occupied by traffic is a collision waiting to happen. Watch your collisions drop by simply establishing a “cover your right policy” and making a conscious effort to keep all moving traffic on the left/strong side of the bus.
Terminal Checks: With regard to road supervision duties, terminal checks of whether bus mirrors are set up properly should be a regular occurrence. Don’t be surprised to discover that there is no consistency in mirror positioning and utilization. It’s more like a “do your own thing” philosophy. If you are the person that instructors report to, or if you are an instructor yourself, simply ask other instructors to show/describe to you what they are teaching bus operators with regard to mirrors. You might be surprised with what you receive back. I’ve felt that some would be more effective being employed as air traffic controllers, based on their teachings with regard to the proper height positioning of the true view non-convex rearview mirrors. Most flat-view mirrors are set so high today they encourage nose bleeds. The operator can clearly see local aircraft beginning their decent as they prepare for landing. Sadly, in many instances today a search party is required to locate what should be shown — the pivot point.
Company Vehicles: Being assigned a company vehicle as part of your tour of duty is a pretty nice perk; however this perk can easily be abused. Sitting in your vehicle can compromise your effectiveness. At no time would I expect road supervisors to be in their vehicle attempting to regulate service during peak hours. Responding to incidents, ensuring personal safety, or if part or all of your duties require you to be in a vehicle, then your presence in the vehicle will be justified. Regulating service should require you to be out of the vehicle. Simply recording bus numbers can be done by anyone. Adjusting headways, being available to the public’s inquiries and establishing presence for your route operators will require you to be out of your vehicle. You reap what you sow. Show respect towards your operators and it will come right back to you. You need them as much as they need you.
In closing, I feel the need to commiserate with Steve Mentzer. Steve, I read your blog on nutrition and feel your pain with regard to your caffeine issues as I contemplate surrendering my “Oreo Dunking” in a frosted glass of milk. For me, giving up this sacred ritual would be just as painful. Having the skill to know just when to remove a “Double Stuff” cookie before it breaks apart in your fingers, is something I mastered many years ago at breakfast preparing for a game of stickball.
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.
Years ago, I was with Louie Maiello when someone walked over and asked him for some advice: “We’re having problems with people remembering to secure the bus before they leave their seat. Do you have any advice? How can we get them to remember?” Without missing a beat, Louie said “PIN it.” The advice seeker happened to be a veteran mechanic, so he understood and walked away to resume his work. I stood there for a while scratching my head. Pin it?
Diagnose, Prescribe & Follow-Up, are the usual doctor’s actions that are utilized when visiting the doctor’s office for whatever is ailing us. This formula should also apply within your training department with regard to the ailment of Bus Collisions.
If we encourage our operators to treat operating a bus as a shift-long Zen moment, we may be able to reduce preventable crashes by a significant amount. The “Zen Operator,” who drives precisely at all times, is also less stressed. The Zen Operator flows through difficult, tight situations easily and their body language and vibe give passengers a sense of confidence. The operator whose passengers have a white-knuckle death grip on the back of the seat in front of them is not practicing “Zen Bus Operation.”
Ah, summer. Pool parties, barbecues, the smell of honeysuckle and the sight of lightning bugs. Or — a rise in crime, agitated riders seeking air conditioning, heat stroke, a new fiscal year, and the necessary, but unpopular, fare increases. However you view the summer months, with a direct correlation between high temperatures and increased crime, it's vital for transit leaders to be asking themselves, "Have we done everything possible to keep our people safe?"
The RMS occurred last month in Albany, N.Y. and it was a truly remarkable learning experience for those in attendance. The RMS serves as a one-of-a-kind event that brings together transit risk management professionals from all across the country to focus on key topics related to safety, risk management, planning and prevention.