Tag Archives: Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier

Transit trainer discusses sleep apnea

Omnitrans Employee of the Year Don FrazierThis year, new government health regulations take effect for commercial drivers, including sleep apnea testing. Sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder where the sleeper’s breathing becomes very shallow or can stop altogether at intervals thoughout the night. It occurs when the muscles at the back of your throat relax which causes your airway to narrow or close when you breathe in. Many people never realize that they have the condition.

“Sleep apnea is no joke,” says Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier who was diagnosed with the disorder two years ago. It was Don’s wife Audrey who convinced him something was wrong. “She told me that I just didn’t seem like myself. I was moody and irritable, I would drowse off whenever I sat down during the day, and I would have these breaks in my breathing during the night. My doctor recommended a sleep test where I was hooked up to a machine at night and it would track my breathing.”

When the doctor looked at Don’s sleep report, he was concerned. He told Don he had one of the worst cases of sleep apnea he had seen. His rating was 60.

“I was shocked,” Don admits. “I asked him if that meant my breathing had stopped 60 times during the night. He shook his head and told me that my breathing had stopped 60 times in an hour. I was a very high risk for a heart attack.”

Commercial drivers and new DOT regulations on sleep apneaThe sudden drops in oxygen levels, caused by sleep apnea, can increase blood pressure, lead to fatigue and drowsiness during the day, affect memory and mood, and even cause a heart attack or stroke.

The doctor confided to Don that he himself had sleep apnea and explained that it was a managable condition. He immediately had Don begin using a CPAP machine at night when he slept. The machine is about the size of an office phone. It pulls air from the room and pumps it directly into the nostrils. The sleeper may use either a clear mask or nose tubes, whichever is more comfortable.

Right away, both Don and his wife noticed a difference. His moodiness fell away, his mind felt more alert and active, his blood pressure went down, and he woke each morning feeling completely rested and ready to tackle the day.

don and audrey frazier

Don and Audrey Frazier

Now when he goes in for a checkup, the CPAP machine downloads his sleep pattern information to a plastic swipe card. The doctor can read the report from the card which also tells him how frequently the machine has been used. Don must use the machine at least 70% of the time in order to pass his physical.

Does it make things awkward when you’re sharing a bed with a spouse? Don shakes his head. “Actually, no. I’m a lot easier to live with now. Audrey is also sleeping better because she no longer wakes up constantly during the night worried because my breathing had stopped. We joke around a lot too. When I put on the mask I can flirt with her in my Darth Vader voice.” He grins.

Don believes that the new DOT health regulations may help a lot of coach operators who don’t realize they have sleep apnea. “It was a life-changer for me,” says Don. “I feel like a whole new person. I know that a lot of operators are concerned about these new licensing regulations, but sleep apnea testing is really a good precaution that can actually save your life.”

Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Employee of the Year: Don Frazier

On February 4th, Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier was named Omnitrans Employee of the Year for his dedication and invaluable contributions to success of the agency.

Don was critical to the successful launch of our sbX rapid transit service. He personally developed an in-depth, hands-on training program for our sbX coach operators to ensure they had the skills necessary to safely and efficiently run the route. He also tested vehicle features and helped identify potential problems along the corridor. Thanks to his excellent program and the hard work of his training team, our coach operators were well prepared for the April launch.

The latest Omnitrans training tool: the virtual coach simulator

His commitment to innovation has led our training program to new heights, most recently with the introduction of a virtual coach simulator. It is used as a defensive driving tool to give coach operators the opportunity to face challenging crisis scenarios not easily duplicated in their actual road training. Don constantly looks for new tools and training programs that he can implement with little cost to the agency.

However, to see where Don truly shines, you simply need to talk to the members of his team who nominated him for the Employee of the Year Award.

Don Frazier with trainers Charles Molloy, Stephen McClure, and Christina Diaz

“He is very fair and he watches out for his crew,” says Instructor Charles Molloy frankly. “He takes care of us and wants the best of everything for us. As far as tools or training materials—anything we need—he goes to bat for us.  And it’s because he’s come up through the ranks and knows what we’re facing. I’ve been here going on 21 years and have seen a lot of people in that position, and he’s the best by far. He’s worked hard to bring in innovative training tools like the new coach simulator. Since he became supervisor, this department has risen to a whole new level.”

Don on a test drive in one of the sbX articulated buses

“In my opinion, Don is very deserving of this award,” adds Instructor Christina Diaz. “He is a cool, calm, collected, flexible supervisor. He always has an open door policy. He is always open to suggestions and ideas. For me personally, I feel fortunate and grateful to work for someone like him. He’s been a great mentor to me and has taken me pretty much under his wing.  Even though he’s a supervisor, he’s had no reservations about taking time out of his busy schedule to work with me and show me Omni way. And I’m very appreciative of that.”

Omnitrans trainer Kimberly Perkins

Omnitrans trainer Kimberly Perkins

“Wow. What can I say?” says Instuctor Kimberly Perkins. “I just feel he’s taken us to a whole new level with new equipment and programs we never had before. He’s very good about listening to our suggestions and going to bat for us. I feel like I can go to him for anything. You know how sometimes you can feel so stressed by your boss that you don’t even want to come to work? Don’s the opposite. He makes you want to be here. He supports you and encourages you to give it your best. He always fair and treats all of us the same.”

Stephen McClure agrees. “Don is fair and follows the rules. He’s extremely nice to work for. Whenever I’ve talked with my wife about some of the things he’s done, she says ‘Wow, you really have a good boss.’  And she’s right. I have worked in my lifetime for many people—including myself—and he’s the best.” He grins, “And when you get to be as old as I am, you’ve worked for a lot of people.”

Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham, Operations Director Diane Caldera, Employee of the Year Don Frazier, and Board Chair Alan Wapner

Don seems a little overwhelmed by their comments.

“That means a lot to me, and it really hits me emotionally,” he confesses. “Last year was so tough on all of us. We had several large coach operator student classes, a coach operator instructor recruitment class, several return to work and accident prevention workshops and new DMV certifications to meet. We also had to train ourselves on the new sbX articulated buses  and learn to operate the corridor so that we could in turn train the coach operators. “

Don shakes his head, thinking back. “We were literally going non-stop all the time, pulling long hours and making personal sacrifices in order to do what needed to be done. They are an awesome team, and I’m incredibly proud of everything we’ve accomplished together.”

Director of Operations, Diane Caldera is not surprised. “When you lead by example and really care about and support your staff the way Don does, they will move the earth for you. We have one of the finest training teams in the industry and there is no end to what they can achieve.”

 Juno Kughler Carlson
  Juno.Carlson@omnitrans.org 

Don’s daughter Sandi Coria, his wife Audrey and son-in-law Phil Coria attended the award presentation to show their support and celebrate his achievement

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Don Frazier

omnitrans employee of the quarter don fraizier

Interim Director of Operations Diane Caldera, Employee of the Quarter Don Frazier, Board Chair Alan Wapner, and Director of HR Marjorie Ewing

On May 9th, Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier was named Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter for his dedication and invaluable contributions to success of the agency. His emphasis is always on the rider experience and on ensuring that our coach operators have the tools they need to be safe and successful. His knowledge, experience, professionalism, humor, friendly demeanor and willingness to always go the extra mile makes him an outstanding ambassador for Omnitrans and has earned the respect of his peers.

Don’s career in the transit industry has spanned more than 39 years and includes 24 years with LA Metro. His biggest challenge and one his proudest accomplishments has been his role in the launch of our new sbX BRT line.

Don frazier driving sbx

Don assisted with launch preparations for our sbX service by testing vehicle features and identifying potential problems along the corridor. He also served as the driver for our sbX safety video and VIP tours.

Don was responsible for training his team, as well as our field supervisors, maintenance crews and other key agency staff, on the operation of the articulated coaches. He personally developed an in-depth, hands-on training program for our sbX coach operators to ensure they had the skills necessary to safely and efficiently run the route. He also tested vehicle features and helped identify potential problems along the corridor. So much was new for us: longer coaches, rear fare validators, interior bike racks, rear-facing wheelchair securement, bus only lanes, center stations, level docking and traffic signal prioritizations. Thanks to Don’s program and his excellent 5-person training team, our operators were well prepared for launch of service.

Don and the training team frequently do free wheelchair strap installations for Omnitrans riders to ensure they can be safely and easily secured on the buses.

“It was a huge amount of work,” admits Don. “And it was definitely a team effort. I had to ask a lot of my training staff. Many times they had to give up a day off or come in at 3 or 4 in the morning just so we could cover everything that had to be done. Often we had multiple training sessions going on at once: student coach operator training, sbX coach operator training, route training classes, and coach operator instructor classes. It was a grind, but we got through it. They are an amazing group of people and none of this could have been done without their help.”

Omitrans fleet safety and training team

The training team: Charles Molloy, Verretta Johnson, Kimberly Perkins Don Frazier, Christina Diaz and Stephen McClure

One thing immediately evident to anyone who works with any of the training staff is their supportiveness and dedication to their students. That mentoring process means a lot to Don.

“Students tend to come in with that deer in the headlights look, feeling nervous and unsure of themselves,” Don smiles. “I always tell them, give us one year. You’ll see everything and experience everything and see if this is really for you. Recently a student from my very first training class here reminded me of that. She’s been here 12 years now. She told that she owes a lot of what she has to what she learned from me. That can’t help but make you feel good. You’re making a difference in other people’s lives, seeing them become happier and more confident.”

Trainer Christina Diaz congratulates Don after the award presentation.

Don believes a good work ethic and a positive attitude are critical for student coach operators.

“The toughest part of the job for me is when I have to tell a student they’re not cutting it. I want to help people be successful. If you are lacking in driving skills but are willing to learn and have a great attitude, I’ll even come in on the weekend and work with you to help you get this job. But if you don’t have the right mindset or the proper attitude coming in the door, then you simply won’t be a good fit. Not everyone is cut out to be a coach operator. It’s a tough job. You have to have good people skills and good driving skills. It’s a great job, but it’s also hard.”

Don is looking forward to adding a new resource to the training arsenal very soon. Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans will be getting an on-premises coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes. It’s something he has lobbied for over many years, and he is excited to see it about to become a reality.

Don and his wife Audrey enjoy a moment together on board sbX. The couple has been married for 42 years and have one son and one daughter. They regularly share their home with foreign exchange students and are looking forward to meeting two new students who will be joining them soon from Japan.

“This is the next wave of technology,” says Don. “It will bump our training up to a whole new level and save the agency a lot of money. Right now it costs $90 an hour to run a bus. Putting a student on a coach simulator doesn’t cost the agency anything. It’s an excellent defensive driving tool and will allow us to test the reaction times of student coach operators. The system can also be hooked up so that other students can observe the driver in the simulator as part of the learning experience. Normally this technology costs between $130,000 to $200,000, but we are getting it for $20,000—all of which is covered by a federal grant. It’s an incredible opportunity for us.”

Don and Audrey Frazier on the sbX Green Line