County Connection bus operators are among the best and most thoroughly trained in public transit. One of the key outcomes of this extensive training is that they are also among the safest operators too. Our safety performance has exceeded our safety standards for many years. The primary metric we rely on is the number of preventable accidents per 100,000 miles of service. Our standard is 1 preventable accident/100,000 miles of service. We have met that standard every year going back to 1999. Furthermore, 16 of our current bus operators have had 20 or more years of safe driving!
In addition to producing some of the safest operators in public transit, our operator training program produces highly professional bus operators when it comes to customer relations, emergency response, assisting passengers with disabilities, recognizing and responding correctly to dangerous or unexpected situations, and comprehensive knowledge of our service area, among other things.
Developing these highly trained bus operators is much more involved than you might think.
Every County Connection bus operator receives an intense and comprehensive seven week training course before they ever drive a bus in service. This extensive New Hire Training is where County Connection bus operators are initiated into our organizational culture that values and rewards safety first.
Each new class entails over 200 hours of classroom instruction in areas such as buses and bus components, radio use and protocols, how to check a bus for safe operations, wheel chair tie-downs, substance abuse, defensive driving, dealing with passengers who may not be sober, or may have blood borne pathogen related issues, customer relations, working with seniors and persons with disabilities, managing emergencies and difficult situations, handling accidents and reporting, and our Safe Place Program (we are a designated safe place for troubled teens) among other topics. Each operator also goes through up to 40 hours of behind-the-wheel driving instruction.
Finally, after passing these extensive hours of training, a bus operator can then drive revenue passenger service, but only with a trainer on-board. Once an operator successfully completes all County Connection training, they must complete and pass a vehicle pre-trip test, a brake test, and a driving test all administered by a County Connection certified DMV trainer. They must also pass a fitness for duty test administered by a DMV approved doctor. The DMV will then provide the successful operator with a Class B license with the appropriate and necessary public transit bus operator endorsements.
Once all training is complete and with Class B license is in hand, a new bus operator is ready to be a County Connection driver.
Driver education doesn’t stop there, however, operators continue to receive training throughout their career. Each year, every operator receives eight hours of Verification of Transit Training (VTT). Completing this training is mandatory for keeping a Class B license with the necessary endorsements. This training focuses on a wide range of topics that may include: safe driving, customer service, American with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements, and handling challenging customers. Also, many operators will receive additional retraining of various kinds, on an as needed basis.
The County Connection training program is done in house with our expert staff. This includes two professional trainers, as well as up to eight federal Department of Transportation (DOT) certified operator trainers. These are County Connection bus operators who are certified to train fellow bus operators. Our two professional trainers both are federally certified by the DOT, as well as fully certified by the DMV and the State Department of Education.
Our training program – originally developed over 25 years ago – is constantly improving under the long time direction of our Manager of Safety and Training. Working closely with her for many of these years is our Assistant Manager of Training. Without the leadership of these two great employees, our training program would not be nearly as successful as it has been.
I take great pride in our bus operators, our trainers, the bus operator training program, and our safety record at County Connection. Together they are an important part of our great record of providing outstanding service to the residents of central and south county.