Proper driver training decreases road incidents, increases safety

Posted on January 11, 2012 by Louis Maiello

Many workshop attendees tried out the simulator at the FAAC exhibit, which allowed them to see how simulators can be utilized to support the programs and corrective actions that were presented and discussed during the workshop.
Many workshop attendees tried out the simulator at the FAAC exhibit, which allowed them to see how simulators can be utilized to support the programs and corrective actions that were presented and discussed during the workshop.
Louis Maiello, former director of training, New York City Transit Bus & Safety Division, 2003 NTI Fellow and current Transit Training Specialist at FAAC Inc., was a featured speaker at BusCon. Here he discusses elements from his presentation "Advanced Performance Driver Training" and key steps for "producing a world-class operator."

Louis Maiello: During my BusCon presentation, I set out to outline how an agency might infuse new operators with a solid core curriculum in slightly less than 13 hours, at a time when some agencies might be devoting 40-plus hours to initial training. We discussed a training process that starts - and stays — on the bus until students are able to demonstrate operational proficiency.

Bottom line: keep your training activities focused on the hands-on operation of the bus until the cream rises. Once you've identified your drivers, you can move into the classroom to cover the other aspects associated with the job that defines a professional operator.

Simulators can be utilized as a supplemental tool for basic training. This tool can be used to reduce the dramatic rise in left-side bus/pedestrian incidents and proper training remains our best defense against this alarming trend.
A standardized curriculum, featuring five specific criteria that can be defined with absolute outcomes, can be the key to increasing your agency's efficiency. The lack of a standardized curriculum, however, and set time limits for achieving mastery of each required task makes it impossible to determine whether identical protocols and techniques are being taught to all students, and more importantly, whether your students are actually absorbing the material being conveyed.

I identified training strategies that will serve the needs of a bus operator throughout their career in passenger service. Refresher programs are an important element of this strategy, which needs to be delivered consistently and aimed at specific risk concerns. Empowerment of your operators becomes real when they understand the problems the transit agency has been experiencing and how they can impact and attain the desired improvements.
Key training strategies that will collectively serve your operational staff:

  • Standardized criterion-based curriculum to predict the safety performance of student operators after release from training.
  • Supplemental "training tools" (i.e. driving simulator) to expose the student to specific hazards in a controlled environment where neither the public, nor equipment is at risk.
  • An effective "Train the Trainer" program to ensure that the line instructors - seasoned operators that provide "route familiarization" - are knowledgeable regarding what the student was taught at the training center.
  • Corrective action/refresher solutions to fix exposed problems and weakness areas (driver-based) and attack known risks (agency-based).
  • Post training programs that promote a "hire to retire" philosophy, offering programs, messages and training experiences that will help keep your operators safe throughout their careers as bus operators.

Key steps for producing a world-class operator and how to ensure a successful simulator-based program:

  • Select best-qualified applicants, i.e. those that meet your defined standards.
  • Provide a validated, documented, criterion-based training program that is fair and equitable to all participants.
  • Multi-layered comprehensive safety program that connects training to known problems and/or specific risk concerns.
  • Proactively retrain and monitor, using ride checks, camera-based systems and customer feedback to ensure that needed training is being delivered.
  • Continue to evaluate progress and redesign/implement new programs to address emerging needs as they are being discovered.

I also talked about the importance of a true "hire to retire" philosophy, which can be employed by creating programs that allow management to be hands-on throughout the career of the operator. Once a student graduates and leaves the umbrella of their instructors, it should not take the occurrence of an incident to warrant a return visit to the training center. A trip back to the training center for simulator refresher training should be a requirement and not always attached to a bad incident. It should be the moral obligation of the training department staff to ensure that additional skills be given to the operator, which will improve their behind-the-wheel performance and maintain an acceptable, or dare I say, exemplary safety record.

In the case of a probationary operator where one incident can cost them their job, becoming proactive by exposing them to the most common types of collisions on a simulator before finding themselves in a real-life situation can be the difference between having or avoiding the collision. Every instructor should be aware of the transit agency's most frequent type of collision and how they intend to prevent them from happening.

Corrective actions can be effectively administered using a simulator by creating a concise "training episode" that will reveal to the student the following:
1.    Root Cause - The incorrect actions taken by the student which led to the incident.
2.    Corrective Action Application - The correct way of doing it to minimize a future occurrence.
3.    Successful Application - Allowing students to apply the corrective action without incidence.


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