Are your instructors cut out for the job of training bus drivers?

Posted on May 14, 2019 by Louie Maiello - Also by this author

After bus driver training students graduate and begin passenger service on their own, they usually continue to reflect their trainers teaching for approximately 60 days.
Metro Transit
After bus driver training students graduate and begin passenger service on their own, they usually continue to reflect their trainers teaching for approximately 60 days.
Metro Transit

The importance of a solid bus driver instructional staff should not be taken lightly. A weak, inconsistent instructor will produce a weak, inconsistent student. If your curriculum is not solid and your training staff personnel are not on the same page with their teachings, there’s a problem.

The instructor and not the curriculum should be the only change that occurs when the assigned instructor is out for any given time, whether it’s a single day or a few days after beginning a class. This is a vulnerable time for a new bus operator candidate. It’s critical they hear the same message regardless of who the instructor may be. Confusion and inconsistency will set in and disrupt the learning ability of students. This is not fair to them. Attempting to qualify beyond the basic skill portion of training is difficult enough as is.

Your training program is only as good as the instructional staff that delivers it.

Your training program is only as good as the instructional staff that delivers it. I’d like to share what I know will help a training department in their selection of instructors. As not all student bus operator trainees that report on orientation day will demonstrate the skills to successfully qualify at the completion of their training and move on to the position of bus operator, the same can be said for potential training bus instructors. As in the case with new student bus operator trainees who fail to qualify, there will be those instructor candidates who won’t qualify also. Not all are cut out to do the job. You want solid instructors, the “cream of the crop.”  I can strongly recommend that any new instructor candidates be developed slowly and not be rushed into the position. This will take having them involved with a minimum of at least two separate student bus operator classes in which they are observers and then performers.

Plan early and set a target date of when the new instructor will get exposed to at least two classes.

Step 1 - Break in class 1: The role of an observer.

Step 2 - Break in class 2: The role of a deliverer of basic skills.

Step 3 – Is more training necessary for the instructor candidate? Do they need to be part of a third class?

Aside from the routine requirements that should be in place, such as overall record (attendance, violations, complaints, just to name a few) part of their testing should include having them perform everything they will be teaching to their future classes to the “Lead” instructor at the training department. They need to demonstrate their ability to perform all basic operational skills, driving skills, pre-trip, and everything that is required of a new bus operator candidate. Upon completion, an evaluation must be done, and nothing less than a satisfactory evaluation should be expected. It’s not an automatic title change/promotion. We often quote that bus operators must be held to a higher standard while instructors should be held even higher.

Bus operators must be held to a higher standard while instructors should be held even higher.

An honest evaluation of their performance to be done by the observing “Lead” instructor should determine if they are qualified to receive students and instruct. The question that the lead/veteran instructor needs to ask his/her self is simply; is the instructor candidate instructor material or should they remain as an operator? If they are not instructor material, that’s fine and they will need to realize that it doesn’t make them a bad person. Just as in the case of a new bus operator candidate who fails to qualify. It’s not for everyone. Being a great bus operator is better than being a mediocre instructor.

Tracking the performance of instructors is necessary to ensure they are making the correct evaluations on decision day and whether their students should have been advanced. Tracking also reveals those instructors that may be getting stale and will determine if there is a pattern developing of certain types of collisions being traced back to an instructor. After students graduate and begin passenger service on their own, they usually continue to reflect their trainers teaching for approximately 60 days, or nearly midway through their probationary period. After this period, habits begin to set in as they are being exposed to other operators who are not necessarily still in the “training mode.” This is a normal occurrence and happens to the best of us. Anything less than a six-month probation is not recommended. Keeping probationary students close to the vest for six months puts an urgency on them to remain steady and continue reflecting their instructors training.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Conduct monthly probation meetings of each student. These meetings should be between the training department and depot management; at the depot the student is operating from. Track their progress.
  • Make note of any collisions and note the instructor who qualified and advanced the student.
  • See if any pattern exists for a certain instructor having a high amount of collisions traced back to him/her.
  • Determine if the incidents were of similar type.

Once this is determined, it will be time for a discussion with that instructor by the “Lead” instructor or equivalent. Perhaps additional training is necessary and, in some cases, possible removal from the instructional staff.

Hope to see some of you in Louisville at the Mobility Conference coming up shortly. If there is anything you would like to discuss, feel free to approach me. See you there.

Louie Maiello 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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