Tag Archives: omnitrans bus drivers

Employee of the Quarter, January-March 2017

For Field Supervisor and Employee of the Quarter Tiffany Barnes, persistence is the name of the game. Having started her career with Omnitrans as a Coach Operator 12 years ago, Tiffany has always looked forward to continuing her growth within the agency. She not only wishes for a lucky break to happen, she diligently chases her goals and creates opportunities for herself.

In the first quarter of this year, Tiffany held three different positions in the Operations department, simultaneously: sbX Coach Operator, Relief Field Supervisor, and Relief Dispatch Supervisor. “Tiffany is an operator who has shown perseverance and determination,” says Director of Operations Diane Caldera. “She is utilized in all of her positions, doing very well in each, and is an excellent example of succession planning.”

“I’ve been trying to be a Field Supervisor for five years now,” says Tiffany, who would like to move upward at Omnitrans as far as she feels prepared to go. “I’ve tried and put in maybe four or five applications before becoming Relief Field Supervisor. Around that same time, I got Relief Dispatch Supervisor, so I held three positions at once.”

Tiffany faced a challenge in adjusting to three roles, but was able to take it in stride. “My schedule was all over the place!” she laughs. “That’s the challenge that I’ve faced. Getting the hang of things came naturally and everything fell into place. Everything meshed well together while juggling the three positions, but the irregular schedule was tough at first.”

It may seem like a daunting balancing act, but Tiffany is no stranger to multitasking. The mother of two boys, 5 and 12, decided to become a full-time college student to advance in her career. “I decided I needed to go to school to get a full-time Field Supervisor position. I enrolled and got a bachelor’s degree,” she says. “This July I’ll be going back for a master’s in business administration.”

Employee of the Quarter Tiffany Barnes (second from right) is congratulated by (from the left) CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham, Director of Operations Diane Caldera, and Board of Directors Chair Sam Spagnolo.

In March, while in the capacity of Relief Field Supervisor, Tiffany’s leadership skills had the chance to shine as she and other staff members responded to a customer’s life-threatening emergency at the San Bernardino Transit Center.

While mitigating the situation, Tiffany collaborated with 9-1-1 dispatchers, Omnitrans security officers, and customer service staff at the transit center. As smoothly as possible, she had the facility evacuated, while also coordinating with customer service and Omnitrans dispatch to adjust our transportation operations as necessary during this time.

“As a supervisor, I had to get the facility cleared and locked down. It was a good team effort and we did the best we could in the situation. It was challenging but I felt prepared for it after my training at Omnitrans,” she says.

The situation was new for Tiffany, who was able to remain calm and level headed to figure out the best way to approach the situation and have it handled properly. Prior to Omnitrans, Tiffany had worked in the medical field, which taught her the importance of maintaining composure during an emergency. She also gives kudos to the SBTC customer service staff and security team for their great crisis management skills.

“Customer service and security were awesome! It was a team effort, so I give kudos to them. I had customer service call dispatch to reroute the buses, and they helped to lock down the facility. It was just great synergy and teamwork.”

The day the Omnitrans Board of Directors recognized her as Employee of the Quarter in May also happened to be Tiffany’s first day in her new and sole position of Field Supervisor, the job that for five years she had been striving for. “It’s tough getting turned down, but I never gave up,” she says. “I don’t believe in giving up on myself or my goals. So that’s what I will continue to do.”

Omnitrans has become “home” for Tiffany, so it is no surprise that she is committed to her job. She has a deep respect for her colleagues who she considers like family, and has love and passion for helping the people that we serve. “I love people and believe treating people the way you would want to be treated whether they’re homeless, or different than you. That’s what I live by and teach my children,” she says.

Coach Operators recognized for safe driving record

The Omnitrans Million Mile Club has welcomed new drivers to its ranks! Fourteen coach operators are recognized this year for their achievement in safely driving 25,000 hours without a preventable accident, a feat that is accomplished over the course of 12 years. One driver has completed 50,000 driving hours over 25 years without a preventable accident, making them a 2 million mile club member.

From left to right: Salvador Soto Luna, Antoinette Meza, Jerry Milton (2 Million Mile), Michael Morrow, Dagoberto Perez, Elizabeth Samaro, Clarissa VanDyke.

“To put into perspective what each new member of the elite Million Mile Drivers Club has accomplished, consider the miles driven,” says Assistant Transportation Manager Mike DiFonzo. “The circumference of the earth is 24,901 miles. Each driver drove an equivalent of 40 trips around the earth without a chargeable accident or safety violation. What an amazing accomplishment!”

From left to right, are: Manuel Acosta, Kathleen Havey, David Castillo, and sbX driver Juan Miranda.

Each driver was presented with a special plaque, jacket, hat, belt buckle, certificate of recognition, a silver name plate, a day off with pay, and $500. Our 2 Million Mile driver also received a bonus five-day cruise to Mexico including paid time off!

Our congratulations go to these drivers for setting the standard of excellence. We are grateful for their commitment to safety as they connect our community.

1 Million Mile Coach Operators

  • Manuel Acosta
  • David Castillo
  • Kathleen Havey
  • Antoinette Meza
  • Juan Miranda
  • Michael Morrow
  • Dagoberto Perez
  • Earl Roberts
  • Elizabeth Samaro
  • Salvador Soto Luna
  • Dennail Sweatt
  • Jackie Sweatt
  • Wendell Taylor
  • Clarissa Van Dyke

2 Million Mile Coach Operators

  • Jerry Milton

To view more photos of our 2017 Million Mile Club inductees, click here.

Employee of the Quarter, October-December 2016

Director of Operations Diane Caldera, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz, Omnitrans CEO/General Manager P. Scott Graham, and Board of Directors Chair Sam Spagnolo.

When asked to attend the Omnitrans Board of Directors meeting in February to be officially recognized as the Employee of the Quarter, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz was appreciative and humbled, but a little apprehensive.

“I don’t like all the attention,” a modest Christina reveals. “I just want to come to work and do the best job that I can. That’s how I like to prove myself.”

Christina’s passion for the work that she does led her to this achievement. She does not seek pomp and circumstance, or praise. She would rather let her strong work ethic speak for itself – and it has.

When she’s not leading a new class of coach operators through their five-week training period, Christina is working on tasks to improve our fleet safety. She currently also sits on the Accident Tracking and Prevention Committee and is an alternate representative on the Accident Incident Review Committee.

Over the last quarter, Christina has: become the first in the Training department to complete the Leadership Action Plan program, the University of the Pacific Transit Management certification, and developed an employee proficiency form that has improved the Operations department’s CHP and DMV audits of over 400 coach operators. She has also volunteered to attend the DMV Employee Testing Program (ETP) examiner course in Sacramento later this year. Gaining this certification saves the agency money and resources by having an ETP examiner on-site to administer the tests for coach operator commercial driver licenses.  

As involved as she is within her department, Christina’s enjoyment comes from interacting with new coach operator students in the training room.

“I get to be a mentor as well as a coach,” Christina smiles. “This is what I tell students when they come through the door: ‘I don’t teach you how to drive, you already know how to drive. I am just going to add to what you already know.”

Christina’s approach to training is not to simply teach from a manual, but to pass on knowledge that she has gained through experience, and share it with future drivers to enrich their own job performance. This is what makes her look forward to another day at the office.

“I enjoy interacting with our trainees and being exposed to different types of personalities. It helps me learn to work with different individuals. The agency relies on me to execute what needs to be done, and if I can contribute to that greater goal of the agency by instructing new drivers, then I am happy,” she tells us.

Fleet Safety and Training team at the 2016 Omnitrans Bus Roadeo: (left to right) Charles Molloy, Christina Diaz, Norma Zamora, Don Frazier, Kim Perkins, and Steve Sisneros.

Before joining Omnitrans in 2013, Christina had been a driver at other transit agencies. When the time came for a change, she found an opportunity in Training that was suitable to her skills and experience. She describes this as the agency “taking a chance” on her without knowing her, for which she is grateful.

In her three and a half years with the agency, her proudest moment is having been an integral part of the sbX launch in 2014. “I was here since its inception,” Christina says proudly. “Even though I was new here, I got to be involved in the process from the beginning, learning how to drive the 60-foot articulated buses, and passing that on to operators who had not driven them before,” Christina shares. “That was a milestone – to launch the region’s first bus rapid transit line – and I got to be a part of it. I made history with the agency!”

Christina’s mindset is that fostering mutually beneficial relationships with coach operators is crucial. “Someone once told me that if you have a know-it-all attitude, and you believe there is nothing else that anybody can teach you, you’re in trouble. There is a lot to learn, always.”

She continues, “I am always asking a lot of questions! We are all part of one agency, and the more that you’re aware and knowledgeable of other departments and facets of the agency, the better that you can do your job. Knowing more allows you to understand the broader picture of what we do for our public.”

Christina’s pride and dedication are not lost on anybody, especially her supervisor, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Don Frazier. “Christina has been a true leader in the Training department. She has volunteered for tasks continuously and has worked many days off to make sure that tasks are covered,” says Don. “Christina has definitely proven to be not only an excellent instructor, but an overall great employee to the agency.”

Moving forward, Christina wants to continue to exceed expectations. “My goal is to continue to fulfill the needs of the agency and to meet the demands to the best of my ability. I also want to continue to grow and learn as much as I can.”

“I take such pride in this job, which is something that I haven’t always done before. I didn’t always care about my uniforms looking neat and pressed,” she laughs. “But now at Omnitrans, I go as far as taking them to the cleaners, because that’s how proud I am to be here.”

Omnitrans Introduces “Don’t Touch the Driver” Safety Campaign

In partnership with WeTip, Inc., Omnitrans is introducing a new safety information campaign, “Don’t Touch the Driver,” on its buses and at transit centers to remind the community that any violence against bus drivers may be a felony offense.

“Driver assaults are infrequent at Omnitrans. Unfortunately they are trending upward. In partnership with WeTip are taking a proactive role to protect our employees and customers,” said Omnitrans Security & Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Mark Crosby.

Campaign materials feature a simple graphic and the information that any assault against a bus driver may result in arrest and prosecution. Anyone who has information that leads to the arrest and conviction of someone responsible for such an incident is eligible to receive a WeTip reward of up to $1,000.

WeTip, Inc. offers an anonymous nationwide crime reporting hotline, 1-800-78-CRIME (1-800-78-27463). Operators are on hand 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, to take information on crime, including any related to public transit. Calls are completely anonymous.  Tips may also be submitted online at www.wetip.com.

“Don’t Touch the Driver” decals are being placed in each Omnitrans bus, and signage also will appear at transit centers and on the agency website.

A Closer Look at Omnitrans’ Growth from a Past Driver’s Perspective

Change is unavoidable, especially for a public transit agency in the ever-changing landscape of Southern California, but taking a closer look at how things were 40 years ago illustrates just how far Omnitrans has come! This month, as we celebrate our 40th Anniversary, we connected with one of our original employees – Richard Breeden – who was integral in developing some important practices that are still part of our daily operations in connecting our community.

It was 1958 when Richard joined San Bernardino Valley Transit, which would become Omnitrans. After being discharged from the US Army, and a short stint at Santa Fe Railroad, Richard saw a job opening for bus drivers and decided to apply, hoping to utilize his experience as an Army driver. After completing a test drive, he was asked if he could begin the 14-day training process the next day.

“I was given a rule book to read before coming in the next day,” remembers Richard of the fast-paced process. “I had to learn all the routes, rules, regulations, operation procedures, and fares all in one night!”

Richard Breeden

Richard in action as the first bus driver trainer around the time Omnitrans was formed.

Many things were different in the transit world in those days. Base fare was 25 cents, the buses did not have wheelchair lifts, and there was no air conditioning for those hot summer days! In addition to conducting a 20-40 foot bus without power-steering, it was the driver’s duty to collect fare, sort it and run it through a changer to generate change for the next stop. Hello, forearms of steel! 

It was only Richard’s seventh day of training when he was asked to train a fellow student! Hesitantly, Richard complied with the dispatcher’s request and from that moment forward, he was no longer a student, but as a trainer.

Of course, that’s not how it works today. Four decades later, Omnitrans’ coach operators must complete five to six weeks of training and education with a certified trainer, including classroom work, behind the wheel experience, and even a state-of-the-art coach simulator with the most advanced technology.

In 1962, Richard was the employee who took the initiative to approach the city of San Bernardino to voice the need for formal training of our drivers. A few months later, a sign-up sheet was posted for anyone interested in being a trainer. Richard did not sign up.

When the transit manager asked why his name was not on the list, Richard responded that he was “happy being a bus driver.” After being convinced to add his name to the pool of applicants, he scored an interview and was selected for the newly created role.

After developing a comprehensive three-week training program that included diagrams and obstacle courses, City Hall approved Richard’s plan. The students’ training period culminated with a test created by Richard, which required a passing score of 80% or higher. Those who scored below that threshold were terminated.

Richard Breeden

Richard came back to Omnitrans for a visit last summer and posed with Old Blue, our vintage 1958 bus, which he found and was also the first to drive at special events around town.

In the years following, Richard revamped the driver’s rule book, and partnered with the National Safety Council to create the Million Mile Club for transit operators, an exclusive club for drivers who have driven 1,000,000 miles accident-free. He strengthened our partnerships with law enforcement by coordinating mutually beneficial trainings on our vehicles, and created positive relations between Omnitrans and community organizations including coordination of the first employee blood drive after a mechanic’s daughter found herself in need during surgery. The blood drive continues to this day.

Richard retired in 2000 as Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor at Omnitrans, but returned for special events to drive our 1958 vintage bus, Old Blue, which he found and drove for the first time. Although we have vastly grown from a small agency of just 29 vehicles in 1976, it is employees such as Richard who had the foresight to implement ideas that continue to impact our agency four decades later.

5-year-old chooses Omnitrans for class project

Omnitrans kindergarten class project

When Mrs. Morales at Corona Elementary School assigned a transportation project to her pre-K class, 5-year-old Teresa knew immediately what she would pick. While other children worked on models of  planes, trains, ambulances and cars, she created a diorama featuring her beloved Omnitrans bus.

“I love Omnitrans because it takes me and my mom everywhere we want to go,” Teresa grins, peeking from behind her project. “And I get to see my favorite bus drivers, Landru and Alicia!”

Teresa and her mom Matty

Teresa and her mom Matty

Her mom Matty smiles, “Landru has known me since I was pregnant with her. I’ve been taking the bus for the past 15 years since I was a student at Chaffey. My mom was actually the one who taught all of us kids how to use the bus. We were more afraid to take the bus than her–and she had no English then!  She used to take us everywhere. We were always worried we’d get lost, but she’d tell us, ‘No you won’t. Don’t be afraid.’ Now the drivers are like family to us.”

TeresaProject

Matty remembers how she used to work late nights at a Burger King in a bad section of town. “Every night after my shift, I would have to run to the stop so I wouldn’t miss the bus home. It was not a great area for a woman to be alone, so I used to tuck my hair under a baseball cap and put on a big coat to try to disguise myself as a man.”

The coach operator who drove the route was concerned about the young woman, especially since his was the last bus of the night.

“I don’t want you to be stranded out here alone,” he told her. “It’s too dangerous. If I get to the stop and don’t see you right away, I’ll wait. ”

Matty smiles, “He was very kind, and made me feel safe. We’ve always had nice drivers who looked after us.”

diorama

Teresa nods her head and bounces in her seat excitedly, “Landru and Alicia are my friends. They always say hi to me, and I tell them about school. They helped me with my project.”  She points to two photos she has glued to the the sky on her diorama. “My mom took my picture with them on the bus.”

Teresa shows me all the other tiny details she’s included in her project, like a bus bench, a route 63 sign and a flower garden. “I love it so much,” she says proudly. “I like school  and always get 4’s and ‘great jobs’ on my projects. That’s the most you can get. Do you know that when I grow up I want to go to college? I want to learn new things.”

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“Tell her what you want to be when you grow up,” her mother prompts her.

“A veteranarian!” Teresa grins. “I love all kinds of animals and want to take care of them.”

“Are you going to take the bus to work when you’re a vet?” I asked.

“I think so,” she says, considering. “Then I can tell Landru and Alicia about the animals I’m helping!”

TeresaAndFriends– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Student takes bus to brighter future

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Omnitrans rider Maria Aguilera has overcome many challenges in her life. As a little child in Mexico, an injury from an accidental fall resulted in hospital stays and the use of a leg brace until she was 12.

When her family moved to the United States in 1994, Maria faced another obstacle: learning to speak a new language.

“English has been the most difficult for me,” she explains. “When we came to the U.S. to live, I was a teenager. I had to go to a special school to learn the language. The teacher put labels on everything–the chairs, the table, the teacher’s desk, the tape recorder, the bathroom, the door–so that we would learn their names. Basically the way they would teach us is by singing and playing games. This way it is not so stressful. It took about a year and a half for me to be able to communicate. But in my final three years of high school, I was on the principal’s honor roll.”

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Today Maria attends Westwood College where she is in her second year studying business administration. Because of her hip injury she is unable to drive, so she relies on Omnitrans to get back and forth to her classes.

“Without the bus I would not have been able to go to college,” she says. “I would have had to quit school and continue to work factory jobs or at a fast food restaurant. I wanted to do better. One day I’d like to work in sales or marketing or maybe manage an office.”

Maria also likes the sense of community she gets from riding the bus. “The drivers are very friendly. Our family has been using the bus for so many years, that they all know us and what stops we normally use.”

“Most of the time my parents ride the bus together. One day they took separate buses going in opposite directions. That afternoon the driver joked with me asking what was going on with my parents taking seperate buses now.”

She laughs. “It actually gives me peace of mind to know that that someone is paying attention and looking out for us that way.”

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