In my 24-year involvement with bus simulator training, I have had the pleasure to provide training at several transit agencies in several countries. During my position as lead training bus and simulator instructor at NYC Transit Department of Buses, I was able to “find its place” in the bus operator training program to achieve the results I desired with this supplemental training tool.
Here in 2023 as I continue to remain involved, I would like to comment on a few assumptions that are made about bus simulator training and what to consider if a simulator is in your future.
There have been transit agencies who have integrated a bus simulator into their bus operator training program and have been successful in achieving the results they had hoped for. They did their homework before purchasing, and by doing so, it placed them in a position to be successful.
There have also been some agencies who have not received the results they had hoped for. I hope the following comments will enlighten you as to what some of those causes of failure were. I strongly recommend doing your homework and obtaining help in determining whether your existing bus operator training program has reached the level of expertise to accommodate this addition to your overall training program.
Below I have listed a few causes of what leads to an unsuccessful simulator program:
- The transit agencies mistaken belief that a simulator will improve their training program and that it will reduce the amount of training days necessary to qualify into passenger service. Simulation training should not be promoted as something that will reduce the amount of training days nor should that be your goal. Bringing a simulator on board can actually harm a training program if certain key ingredients are not already in place within the training programs curriculum. There are several required ingredients in this recipe that are high on the list of “must haves” for successful simulator integration. They should be in place before beginning simulator supplementation training.
- Not requiring those individuals who will conduct the training on the bus simulator to have experience in operating a bus in passenger service and having the added experience of training new students on a training bus. Having this experience will ensure the transfer of knowledge between training bus and simulator is seamless and does not contradict what is taught between the two. Requiring that the instructor possesses those qualifications, should be a requirement. Although there are great trainers of other simulated vehicle types that give it their all, have the students best interest at hand, and are all in providing best training practices, lacking the hands on behind the wheel experience of the simulated vehicle type will begin to reveal itself once the training begins. Bus simulator training is unlike any other type of simulated vehicle training. This real world experience is necessary, especially when the training currently is or will be primarily utilized as a basic skills development tool.
- Failing to have answers to the following questions. *What am I trying to achieve? *What specifically will be taught on the simulator? *When in the training program does the teaching occur? *What amount of seat time will be implemented? These questions must be answered as they all will play a role on whether your program will be successful or fail.
- Mistakenly believing the majority of behind the wheel driving skills will occur on the simulator. It is not the simulator but rather the training bus where the majority of hands on skills are taught. Simulation must supplement not substitute. It must be utilized for specific issues. The transfer of knowledge must be seamless or the program will fail. This is an absolute if your simulator does not behave as a real bus. The feel of the brakes, size of the steering wheel, positioning of mirrors, and placement of directionals all play into realistic feedback to the student and making the experience real. Some believe the simulator will take the lead in training rather than supplementing the training bus instruction. Huge mistake. The simulator plays a very crucial role in the training program, but should never supersede basic skill development performed on the training bus. How to use it, when to use it, and where to use it in the training program are the real keys in getting those solid positive results. Do not expect a simulator will make it more likely that an operator will follow the laws involving the operation of the vehicle. It has been said the simulator will do that, but it is really the consequences that will await the operator who fails to adhere to those laws, which will be the ultimate wake up call. Their choice. Do not make the mistake and believe the simulator will be the answer to all of your training issues. That is not its purpose.
- Not knowing how to deal with simulator discomfort, and what the BIG 3 causes of discomfort are. If there is one thing that will shut your program down in a New York minute, it’s not knowing the signs of and how to manage simulator discomfort. Not knowing how to recognize and manage simulator discomfort can result in the simulator becoming idle, and in some cases, being dismantled. Having knowledgeable passionate properly trained instructors who are training as one voice from the same page is to be considered standard operating procedure. Managing and minimizing discomfort issues is critical and must be addressed. Hopefully, it is not too late for those who already utilize a simulator and have had, or currently are having, discomfort issues. The issue of simulator discomfort is real and if not dealt with immediately it can cause a simulator program to be abandoned.
- My findings regarding fuel savings benefits when utilizing a simulator versus a real bus: The dollar amount in fuel savings utilizing a simulator is certainly welcome, but it will be minuscule versus the savings in avoiding just one collision with proper pre-purchase planning and understanding how to provide world class training to provide world class operators.
- My findings regarding the benefits of utilizing a simulator for training students rather than a “Line Bus,” which would not be generating revenue if used for training: This is certainly true but revenue loss does not have to occur. Training departments can resolve their issues with a few sensible and creative adjustments. I can recall when during classes of 36, 52, and at times an even higher number of students had to receive their basic skill development simulator training, adjustments were implemented to maintain revenue flow, and ensure training and revenue earnings were not disrupted. A challenge, yes. Was it resolved successfully, yes.
- Do your homework, obtain help to understand what it takes to succeed if you are considering adding a simulator. It is not a toy nor a game but a serious investment.
- Remember to consider the training background of those assigned by the vendor who will be conducting the training of your instructors on the simulator. (See bullet 2 above)
- Ensure your training program is ready to be supplemented by this tool before purchasing, to be able to achieve the results you would expect. You want to be successful and not fail.
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