Management & Operations

Handling New Hires with Prior Driving Experience

Posted on April 4, 2016 by Louie Maiello

Georgia College
Georgia College

One topic I have heard discussed in some circles is regarding the amount of training to administer to new-hire candidates that bring some past driving experience with transport vehicles (paratransit, shuttle, etc.). In public transit, rural and small urban areas, those groups who are dependent on this form of transportation, such as the elderly and disabled, require special services to accommodate their special needs.

Proper placement of a new-hire candidate with prior shuttle/paratransit driving experience is critical. Should they complete the entire training program? Should they automatically be considered “qualified” to immediately be placed in a transporting role? When preparing to hire, keep in mind that candidates who score well when pre-screened by means of a written assessment and structured interview designed to predict their safety, attendance and customer service abilities, should usually result in trainees that will align with the three distinct responsibilities of the operator being: “be there, be safe, be courteous.”
Pre-screened candidates viewed as potential poor performers can be described as:
• In a hurry
• Impatient
• Disliking of authority
• Externally controlled
Pre-screened candidates viewed as potential good performers can be described as:
• Reliable
• Attendance-oriented
• Even-tempered
• Socially-involved
First day arrivals can consist of candidates that:
• Already possess the proper required licensing with actual driving experience in that class.
• Possess the proper licensing class, but have not driven that type of vehicle.  
• Those that rarely ever drive a motor vehicle and basically used their license as a form of identification (this group is usually the toughest to train as they are basically learning to drive again).

Some, but not all, who already possess the required licensing can find themselves behind the eight ball during training because of unwanted “baggage.” This baggage would take the form of bad driving habits and overconfidence, which leads to a deprogramming progress of having to lose bad habits and having to adjust to the standards of the new agency’s training department.

With the clock ticking and having a limited amount of training days to qualify, many candidates lose precious time in the deprogramming process and can find themselves lagging behind most of the other candidates. Do not make the mistake of believing that you don’t have to be as critical with “already-licensed” CDL drivers that enter your training program simply because they arrive with such credentials. Retraining might be needed.

Some negative habits not acceptable to the training agency can be in the form of:

• Lacking the people skills required for the increased personal interaction.  
• Unable to set up and utilize mirrors according to the agencies standards.
• Inability to abide by the safety pyramid of Safety, Service, Schedule.

One side note, when accumulating data on rural transit incidents versus urban transit incidents, backing collisions were virtually non-existent with the urban properties. Rural and small urban operations are faced with unique issues where backing is much more utilized in servicing their customers. This resulted in backing collisions with fixed objects being right at the top of the list for one regional rural property.

In closing, paratransit and shuttle operators can benefit from low-risk simulator supplemental training to raise awareness in determining corrective action solutions to some of the most frequently high-risk occurring collisions facing operators of these vehicles. This technology can ensure that a leading collision for one year does not repeat itself the following year.

Standardized training for new hires, annual refresher training for all operators, and being proactive with regard to reducing high-profile, frequently occurring incidents, are all key elements of a complete training solution package. With people skills at a premium due to the greater personalized interaction required in paratransit and shuttle operations, customized training in specific incident/collision issues is a highly recommended ingredient.

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