Training Bus Documentation…Just the Facts, Please!

Posted on February 6, 2018 by Louie Maiello - Also by this author

Instructors need to point out any unsatisfactory action at the precise moment it occurs to minimize any surprise reaction that a student may demonstrate during the verbal summary and review of the day’s tasking sheet. Photo: Foothill Transit
Instructors need to point out any unsatisfactory action at the precise moment it occurs to minimize any surprise reaction that a student may demonstrate during the verbal summary and review of the day’s tasking sheet. Photo: Foothill Transit
From the bus barn this month, I will be touching on the importance of proper documentation with regard to the basic skills performance of the student bus operator on the training bus. Going hand-in-hand with a standardized curriculum should be a standardized way of documenting student performance.

When putting pen to paper, be sure an instructor’s documentation can be clearly understood by others who may need to refer back to it at a future date. Proper documentation is critical in the case of a student operator who may attempt to dispute a dismissal and want to protest and pursue some type of legal options to challenge an instructor’s final evaluation. Let's take a look at the “seven-to-10-day front-loaded” behind-the-wheel skill-development new-candidate bus-operator program, which without a doubt in my opinion is the most-effective, cost-saving, and most-efficient manner to train and produce world class operators.

Be sure an instructor’s documentation can be clearly understood by others who may need to refer back to it at a future date.

For the student, “Training Bus Day One” is “Familiarization Day.” The student will be familiarized with specific tasks that should be introduced and demonstrated by the instructor. Because the student is simply getting “Familiarized,” the overall evaluation options of “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” should not yet apply. A “Yes” box is sufficient. Simply put, your Day One documentation should reflect that “Yes,” the student was “Familiarized.”

Early on, and after Day One, during the “Initial Instructional Training” phase of training bus basic skill development, the “Satisfactory” or “Unsatisfactory” check-off options will become applicable to the student’s daily performance. Every “Unsatisfactory” check-off must be accompanied with a brief statement as to what occurred behind the wheel that justified the “Unsatisfactory” result. As the training moves on to the “Show Me” phase of training, which should occur during the final days of "Basic Skill Development" training, again any “Unsatisfactory” check-off must always be supported with documentation, utilizing the words “student failed to” properly execute the action that was required.

Example: Student “failed to” properly perform the interior and exterior pre-trip inspection, according to the agency standards. Another example, such as following too closely behind another vehicle, should read as "student ‘failed to’ provide sufficient following distance." Refrain from “sugar coated” documentation, which is the case when using “would have, could have, and should have” in situations when a specific maneuver or skill was not performed correctly.

Example: In the case of a student operator who is proceeding too closely alongside a parked vehicle, stating the student “could have” positioned the bus further away from parked vehicle is weak documentation. Instead, use stronger, more direct documentation that would read: Student “failed to” provide sufficient clearance between bus and parked vehicle right of bus. Words like “excessive,” “insufficient,” “improper,” and “failed to” should be standard training bus vocabulary utilized by the instructional staff. Needless to say, if any of these words appear on the final day of training, the “Qualified” box should not contain a check mark. If it does, this creates a documented contradiction.

In the case of a student who has been rated an “unsatisfactory – not qualified,” the final day comment should read, “According to the Standards of the Training Department of this Agency, student is “not qualified and not recommended” to advance into passenger service.” At this point, with all available training days exhausted, resignation or termination become the only two options available for the student. Having a set of properly documented tasking sheets available on file will justify the dismissal or resignation and becomes the glue that keeps a dismissal intact.

In closing, I recommend that all daily tasking sheets and not just the final day tasking sheet be completed in triplicate and signed by both the instructor and student. The master copy will become part of the student folder, the second copy given to the student for nightly review and further study, and the final copy is retained by the instructor. A brief “one-on-one” verbal summary with each student at the end of each training day allows the instructor to inform them which skills still require further improvement. This “wrap up” should become part of the daily routine.

Remember: Instructors need to point out any unsatisfactory action at the precise moment it occurs to minimize any surprise reaction that a student may demonstrate during the verbal summary and review of the day’s tasking sheet. Instructors should quickly document exactly what occurred whenever an unsatisfactory action is observed.

Instructors should quickly document exactly what occurred whenever an unsatisfactory action is observed.

This will allow the proper detail to be recorded while it's still fresh in their minds, such as what happened, location where it happened, and at what time of day. This will preserve a mental snapshot for the instructor should they need to produce their statements at a later date, and also to ensure that daily evaluations are accurate and complete containing all that occurred during “behind the wheel” training activities. No exceptions. So when it comes to documentation: “If it ain't in writing, it ain't!”

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 Director, Training Services, for Transit Training Solutions. 

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