When he is not at work, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Steve Sisneros basks in the serenity, calm, and quiet of the great outdoors. It is quite a contrast from the urban backdrop of his career at Omnitrans, the public transit provider in the dense, populous, and ever-growing San Bernardino Valley.
“Being out of the city, away from large crowds, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells in nature, standing underneath a waterfall is a rejuvenating experience that can’t be duplicated,” explains Steve, who developed an appreciation for nature in his childhood years, often camping and hiking with his father.
Disconnecting from the world recharges him to be his best, and it seems to cascade into excellence at work. Earlier this month, Steve was recognized by the Omnitrans Board of Directors as the Employee of the Quarter for April-June 2018 for his contributions to the safety and training operations of the agency.
“We are a large agency, with over 600 people, and the award is given four times a year. I did the math and thought ‘Hey, this is pretty cool!’ says Steve, who was surprised upon learning of his recognition. “It’s the second time our department receives this award in the past two years, so it’s nice and encouraging to see that our work is respected.”
A couple of years ago, Steve attended a Transit Instructor Networking meeting hosted by Long Beach Transit. He noticed high-tech, interactive whiteboards in their training rooms, which made training a much more enriching experience. Thinking proactively, he shared the idea of bringing this technology to Omnitrans with his supervisors and the purchasing process began shortly thereafter.
After a few months of shopping around, the new interactive whiteboards were installed in our training rooms, as well as in other departments throughout the agency. The whiteboards allow you to project your computer onto the screen on the wall, and users can draw, make notes, and highlight items on the screen with just the tip of their finger, similar to what sports broadcasters do on TV. This provides a more visually-stimulating teaching experience that incorporates technology and eliminates paper waste.
Aside from refining the training process in the classroom, Steve also completed the Department of Motor Vehicles Employer Testing program in Sacramento and became certified as an official DMV examiner for Omnitrans, saving the agency $85 per person in testing fees.
Steve, who did not have bus driving experience prior to joining Omnitrans 16 years ago, enjoys having a direct impact in passing down his knowledge to future generations of Coach Operators. Prior to joining the Fleet Safety & Training team four years ago, he was a Coach Operator Instructor for nine of his 13 years as a driver, responsible for guiding new operators behind the wheel and out in our service area.
“Our job is very hands-on, so during the training process we have to figure out how each person will best retain information. Will they learn visually via videos or through a hands-on approach? Someone can do really well in the classroom, then get behind the wheel and freak out,” says Steve.
“Others, don’t do as well in the classroom, but when they get behind the wheel are complete naturals. We have to observe how they are going to retain the knowledge and adapt a style to each individual person.”
Steve’s techniques for effective training include a lot humor and relaying his personal experience as a driver to the trainees. He considers that one the best assets that he brings to the table. Having the experience to back up his words creates trust and credibility between student and instructor. Establishing trust is paramount when many trainees have never driven a 40 foot bus before!
“You have to empower them and let them know that the bus is not going to do anything that you don’t want it to do. Once we can get them past that point, they are able to implement the tools that we have taught them to safely operate the coach,” he says. “When you can relay anecdotes and real stories from your own experience, then it’s just a matter of time before it all falls into place and they gain confidence needed to drive the bus.”
Steve acknowledges that his success would not be possible without the support of his team. He genuinely loves what he does, and looks forward to retiring at Omnitrans when the time comes. To him, the career longevity of many of our drivers’ 25-plus year careers are a testament to the level of satisfaction that this work provides.
“On the days when the going gets tough, realizing that you’re helping that elderly lady get to the grocery store and those kids to get to school is important. Those are motivating factors and a nice reminder of the meaningful work that we’re doing,” says Steve.