Tag Archives: omnitrans coach operator training

New coach simulator offers intriguing possibilities

Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans is in the process of acquiring a state-of-the-art coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes.

Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans is in the process of acquiring a state-of-the-art coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes.

The Omnitrans Fleet Safety & Training team is in the process of acquiring an impressive new tool to add to their arsenal. Thanks to a federal grant, they plan to be training new coach operators on the premises soon, using a state-of-the-art coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes.

“This is the next wave of technology,” says Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier. “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 would get it for $20,000—which we are working to cover with a federal grant. It’s an incredible opportunity for us.”

Omnitrans Fleet Safety & training instructor Christina Diaz demonstrates the old coach simulator

Omnitrans Fleet Safety & training instructor Christina Diaz demonstrates classroom tools currently used in training

The simulator is currently being programmed by our partners at Cal State San Bernardino, who will use the data collected by the simulator to develop future transit training technologies and traffic studies. They will also adapt the simulator to replicate an actual Omnitrans coach. It will be set up with everything the bus would have: wheel, gas pedal, brake pedal, wheel, emergency brake, etc. It will also have the feel of a regular coach, providing the same feel of the road, and tug of the wheel when making turns.

A student sitting in the coach simulator will be surrounded by three screens, one in the front and one on either side. The images on the screen show all the details that the coach operator would see in each window in real-life, complete with rear view mirrors that capture what is going on alongside and towards the back of the vehicle.

Cal State San Bernardino will use data collected by the simulator to develop future transit training technologies and traffic studies.

Cal State San Bernardino will use data collected by the simulator to develop future transit training technologies and traffic studies.

“In addition to mimicking our regular routes, the simulator will also be programmed with emergency situations that will help us prepare student coach operators before they ever get on the road,” explains trainer Christina Diaz. “Scenarios will include things like sudden stops, getting cut off in traffic, unexpected pedestrians, bicyclists, right and left turns and pulling into a passenger zone.”

The idea is to get students comfortable with the coach and routes and prepare them for difficulties they may encounter while they are  in a safe environment. It builds their confidence and helps them to develop good habits and quick reflexes. Because the rest of the class can observe each student in action in the simulator, it becomes a valuable group teaching tool as well, creating the opportunity for questions and discussion.

omnitrans new coach simulator

“We’re very excited by the possibilities the new simulator opens up for us,” says Christina. “Normally when we train on live vehicles, we have to pull a coach from service to practice with. And even though the students are all on board and take turns driving, it’s hard for the entire class to really see what’s going on in the front driver’s seat at any given time. The new simulator saves money, reduces service down times, gives students more ‘on the road’ experience and enhances the overall quality of our training.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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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, Dhristina 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

Coach Operators: more than a driver

As Omnitrans CEO Milo Victoria points out, transit is not about buses. It’s about people. “Omnitrans provides a great service to the community. It’s not just about transferring people from point A to point B. We consider our passengers to be part of our family, and families take care of each other.”

This is why every Omnitrans coach operator receives extensive training, not only in customer service and the safe operation of our coaches, but in multiple emergency scenarios as well. They learn to deal with a wide variety of crisis situations from careless car drivers to terrorist attacks. The goal is to be prepared for anything.

Over the past year Omnitrans coach operators have helped with the identification and safe return of elderly people suffering from Alzheimer’s. They have acted to save lives of those suffering from heart attacks or diabetic seizures. They have offered assistance to women who appeared to be victims of abuse. They have even come to the aid of small children who were lost or abandoned.

Yesterday, one coach operator had the opportunity to put his emergency skills into action when an officer-involved shooting took place near Hospitality in San Bernardino. See the full story in the San Bernardino Sun. He was driving his bus when he heard the sound of gunfire and his rearview mirror suddenly shattered. This 18 year fleet veteran acted quickly, calmly pulling the bus out of danger, speaking with police on the scene and notifying dispatch.

“I was scared at first,” he said frankly. “But then my training kicked in and I knew exactly what to do. My first priority was the safety of my passengers.”

“This is the whole purpose of our training program,” says Omnitrans training supervisor Don Frazier. “Because our coach operators are so well prepared, their reaction becomes almost instinctive. Ray Lopez, our director of Safety and Security, and his team Brenda Rosas and Mark Crosby do a really remarkable job with annual emergency training. The coach operators are given the skills to handle even the most unexpected situation and are confident in the immediate support and backup they will receive from dispatch and our field supervisors. Being a coach operator is not just about driving a bus. It’s about helping people and coping with the unexpected curves life throws at us every day.”

– Juno Kughler Carlson

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Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org