April 9, 2012

Web Extra: U. transit operators upgrade their driver training programs

Ensuring that drivers have the necessary knowledge and skill to get students to and from class safely and efficiently is a top priority for university and college transit systems. We checked in with operators to get an update on changes they are implementing to their driver training programs.

Here are their responses:

“The Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) introduced bus simulators into its training and retraining curricula. The two FAAC simulators are beneficial in many ways. Use of the simulator environment for new hire training reduces the number of trainers needed and the consumption of fuel. The driver's seat and controls are identical to those on MTD buses allowing inexperienced operators to become comfortable with the environment in the safety of the training room. Custom programming recreates the challenges of operating on the University of Illinois campus where narrow roads and heavy auto, pedestrian and bicycle traffic create hazards. New operators can be introduced to the driving difficulties that inclement weather creates. Simulations are also used for accident reconstruction and summer retraining of veteran operators.”

Jan Kijowski, marketing director
Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District
Urbana, Ill.


“The first major change we have made is bringing all of our training in-house. All of our driving and behind-the-wheel training was consulted out before. Through this process we have been able to save over $500 per trainee. Not only have we saved money, but through the process of the drivers' supervisor — myself — facilitating training we have seen better results in their driving after the completion of training and performing better on their exams.

Another major change we made when bringing the training in-house was to implement four hours of classroom instruction on how to handle larger vehicles. I am working to make this longer for our next round. To include the classroom aspect, I attended a week-long training by the Transportation Safety Institute. This training has prepared me well to be an instructor and provided me with the materials (slideshow, instructor manuals, participant manuals and tests) necessary to teach how to safely operate and handle our vehicles.  

The other major change I have made recently includes a discussion about distracted driving. Before, we would talk about driving distracted and mention it was against company policy to use a cellphone, text, change the radio, etc., while the vehicle is in motion and we have it as a part of their employment agreement. However, what has been implemented is an actual discussion about the dangers of driving distracted and the three different types of distractions that drivers encounter (manual, cognitive, visual). We talk about why it is so important to stay focused on the road due to the fact that they have the potential to affect a large number of lives since they are transporting a large number of individuals on their bus.  

The last thing I am still working on to implement is quarterly training at our staff meetings. This refresher training would center on seasonal-specific driving conditions.”

Paul Merkey, residential administration manager, shuttle & emergency procedures
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Milwaukee, Wis.


“We added Smith System training to all drivers' curriculum, a monthly refresher on same, and also put mandatory off bus wheelchair securement stations in for our drivers to practice on. We hold optional weekend training on these platforms as well. We have also begun to add additional training personnel from within the driving ranks to more fully train our drivers behind the wheel.”

Jude Kiah, director, Go West Transit
Western Illinois University
Macomb, Ill.




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