Tag Archives: omnitrans coach operators

A visit with Omnitrans student coach operators

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Steve McClure and a student coach operator go through routes on the system map

Our latest group of student coach operators spent time this week both in the classroom and out in the bus yard, mastering the customer service and technical skills they will need before going out on the road. I stopped by the training room yesterday to visit the class to see how it was going so far.

“Probably the most challenging thing so far is having to learn all 26 routes within a couple of weeks. It’s rough, but we can do it,” says one of the students confidently. The rest of the class nods, smiling.

“Christina’s been teaching us to use key words to help us remember each route,” adds another student. “For example, I remember that the route on Baseline and 16th is the 67  because 1 + 6 = 7. For some reason that sticks for me.”

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz has no doubt her charges will be ready to pass their final test. “They are on this.  They’re a great group and they’re absorbing information like sponges.”

Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Christina Diaz

She points out there’s a lot more more memorization involved in training that most people realize. Not only do student coach operators have to remember the routes, they also have to commit to memory all the radio codes and fare box codes as well. This means lots of study time at home after  class.

The trainers also ensure the students experience public transit firsthand from a rider perspective. They have them ride the system in addition to learning to drive it.

“Earlier this week we dropped each of them off in different parts of Montclair,” laughs Christine. “And they had to figure out what buses to take to get back to the San Bernardino office. They actually did very well.”

Many of the students have operated large vehicles before, which they point out can be both an advantage and a disadvantage. Sometimes it means there are bad habits they have to break–like how to handle the steering wheel.

One of the students demonstrates how NOT to hold the steering wheel.

“Hand positions are at 10-2, 9-3, or 8-4 and should be kept on the outside rim of the wheel,” explains Christina.

“And no palming or putting your hand in the crossbar,”says a young man in the back.”The wheel could spin suddenly and you could get hurt or cause an accident”

Christina grins proudly. “See? They’ve got this.”

The class laughs. They joke with each other, mimicking examples of bad drivers at the wheel. They are obviously a close knit crew and have already bonded over the past two weeks. All of them are looking forward to going out in the field with coach operator instructors next week and driving the routes.

As I get ready to leave, they wave and say goodbye.

“Make sure you’re here on graduation day to take our picture,” calls out one of the women. “You’re going to need a wide lens ’cause we are all going to graduate. We’re in this together!”

-Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

Student coach operators clocking out at dispatch at the end of the day

 

Omnitrans employees donate to Locks of Love

Coach Operator Marianne Rose, Dispatcher Al Mooney, and Coach Operator Linda Buckley

A few Omnitrans employees are sporting a new look at the office. Dispatcher Al Mooney and Coach Operators Marianne Rose and Linda Buckley recently took advantage of a Super Cuts special that offered free haircuts to clients who were willing to donate their hair to Locks of Love.

Locks of Love is a public non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children in the United States and Canada under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis. The prostheses provided help to restore their self-esteem and their confidence, enabling them to face the world and their peers.

This is the fourth time dispatcher Al Mooney has donated his signature ponytail to the charity. He also shaved his beard off to match his new look. “I do this about every 5 years. It’s a great cause and I’m happy to help make a difference.” He chuckles. “Besides, it’s always fun when I walk into the office afterwards and no one recognizes me.”

This is Linda Buckley’s first time making a donation. “It was something I’ve thought about for a while because I know a lot of people with cancer who have gone through treatments. When this opportunity came up, I knew it was a way I could help someone who really needed it.”

For cancer survivor Marianne Rose, the act holds special meaning. “My mom died of cancer. During her treatment, she received one of those wigs, and it meant so much to her. It helped her to look like old herself again, and it touched all of us to see her so happy.”

In 2009 Marianne herself was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  She went through 5 weeks of external radiation treatments followed by 42 hours of internal radiation and 5 months of chemotherapy.

“Now I am 5 years cancer free,” she smiles. “It’s a little funny, you know. When you have cancer you get extremely superstitious. You feel that as long as you don’t change anything, as long as you keep growing your hair, everything is okay. For 4 ½ years I never had a haircut. Now I’m finally realizing that I’m going to be around for a while. This is my way of celebrating and giving back what I can.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Million Mile Coach Operators honored for safety

Omnitrans coach operators have an excellent safety record

Omnitrans Coach Operators Derman Redman and Cecil Stevens were honored for their milestone achievement of 100 million safe driving miles.

This month, the Omnitrans Million Mile Club welcomed two new 1 million mile drivers and two 2 million mile drivers into its ranks. These dedicated coach operators have achieved the prestigious 1 million mile mark by logging 25,000 driving hours without a preventable accident. It’s the equivalent of driving to the moon and back–twice!

Omnitrans CEO Graham Scott, Operators Director Diane Caldera, Board Chair Alan Wapner, Million Mile Coach Operator Derman Redman

The coach operators were honored in a special awards ceremony at the Omnitrans Board of directors meeting on March 5th. Each received a certificate of recognition and a check for $5oo.

One Million Miler Derman Redman is proud of his 14 years driving for Omnitrans and his record of excellent customer service.  He drives Routes 1 and 2.

Omnitrans CEO Scott Graham, Operations Director Diane Caldera, Board Chair Alan Wapner and Million Mile Coach Operator Cecil Stevens

“I love driving,” he says frankly. “And I like being able to work with such diverse people. I really enjoy seeing all the different nationalities and customs. It’s such a mixing pot on the bus—always full of surprises.”

While people are his greatest joy, they can also present some of the greatest challenges. But Derman believes that friendliness and courteousness goes a long way towards dispelling potential problems.

Million Mile Coach Operator Derman Redman with Operations Manager John Steffon

“It’s hard to be rude to someone who just smiled at you and wished you a great day,” laughs Redman. “I also apologize a lot. If I know a customer has had a bad day or a bad experience, I tell them I’m sorry and do my best to turn things around for them. It’s the quickest way to diffuse a situation. It lets people know you care.”

Million Mile coach operator Cecil Stevens with Operations Manager John Steffon

Million Mile coach operator Cecil Stevens with Operations Manager John Steffon

Route 8 operator Cecil Stevens agrees.  In addition to being a One Million Miler, he recently earned two other titles. He is now a Coach Operator Instructor and a member of our new sbX driving fleet.

A group of Million Mile Club members pose with sbX

A group of Million Mile Club members pose with sbX

“I like being on the road, and I care about people. I try to treat them like I would like to be treated. I always tell my passengers good morning, good night, have a great day. If they seem upset, I ask if they’re alright. I also pay special attention to first time riders and make sure I know where they’re going to so I can help them out. Then when I see them again, I ask how the trip went for them.”  Cecil chuckles. “People are always surprised that I remember them. It’s important to me that they have a good experience on my bus.”

Omnitrans bus drivers honored for safety record

Omnitrans bus drivers honored for safety record

Our Two Million Mile drivers, Krafton Stoll and Andrea Thompson, were unable to attend the awards ceremony. These long-time veterans have a long track record of safety, dedication and caring and are an inspiration to all of us.

Congratulations to all our Million Mile award winners. You make us proud!

Omnitrans Million Mile safe drivers and their trainers

The Omnitrans training team with our One Million Mile award winners: (left to right) Cecil Stevens, Steven McClure, Kimberly Perkins, Don Frazier, Verretta Johnson, Terry Molloy, Derman Redman, and Christina Diaz

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

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Omnitrans is why I stay in San Bernardino

When their car was totaled in an accident eight years ago, Eric Newton and his wife Brenda decided it was time to forgo the expense of repairing and maintaining a personal vehicle. The two have relied on Omnitrans as their sole source of transportation ever since. They depend on the bus to shop for groceries, pick up medicine or to visit their favorite destination—Victoria Gardens.

“I’ve gotten to know most of the drivers, and they are great people,” says Eric. “I find them to be courteous, friendly and good about helping people who need information. In fact, Omnitrans is one of the reasons we decided to stay in San Bernardino. A few years ago I had the opportunity to move back to Riverside where I grew up but, after riding both transit systems, I really like the bus drivers here. Robin, Ken and Pete are some of our favorites. They don’t just tell you to get a bus book or point you to a sign when you have a question. They’re more courteous and willing to take a moment to help. That really makes a difference.”

Born with cerebral palsy, Eric is confined to a wheelchair, but that doesn’t slow him down a bit. The 55-year-old San Bernardino resident does computer repair and volunteers his time as a youth pastor at Vineyard Christian Fellowship on E Street.

Eric and Brenda have been married for 19 years. They first met on Thanksgiving Eve when a friend set them up on a blind date. He dropped Eric off at Brenda’s apartment for a quiet evening of drinks and conversation, and the two hit it off right away.

“At the end of the evening, she went to give me her number so I would call her again. I told her I wasn’t going home, that I thought I should stay right there because we made a good pair. She laughed, and I stayed. We were engaged by Christmas Eve and have been together ever since.”

His secret to a great marriage?  “Happy wife, happy life,” he says promptly. “We take care of each other.”

- Juno Kughler Carlson
   juno.carlson@omnitrans.org 

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Email juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Holiday Tree Contest Spreads Good Cheer

Omnitrans Coach Operator Lorina Le’Roy and her “Vintage Kitchen” Christmas tree.

Coach Operator Lorina Le-Roy and Dispatcher Mark Donelly can always be relied on to do our holiday decorating at the East Valley office. This year, due to their busy schedules, Lorina thought maybe they they could try something a little different that would both save them time and get their co-workers caught up in the holiday spirit.

Lorina asked Operations Director Diane Caldera for permission to bring in several artificial trees and hold a tree decorating contest.  Diane thought it was a marvelous idea, and so our first annual holiday tree contest was born.

Everyone got into the spirit of the event, and there was quite of bit of excitement and friendly rivalry as the trees took shape. Each one was as as interesting and unique as the individuals who created them. We thought you might enjoy a little sneak peek behind the scenes for a look at these wonderful entries and some of the people who created them.

Our first place winner was Coach Operator Debbbie Molloy with her tree “Winter of Freedom.” It’s a heartfelt tribute to her son who is currently stationed in Texas, as well as to all the men and women who serve in our nation’s military. Her tree was decked in red, white and blue and  featured a marine ornament, a sailor nutcracker, flags and Santa.

Coach Operator Debbie Molloy won first place for her holiday tree, “Winter of Freedom.”

Second place went to Coach Operators Pamela Valigura and Maria Granado. They chose a vintage tree theme that incorporated lovely Victorian ornaments and an angel who kept a benevolent eye on our bus yard.

Coach Operators Maria Granado (left) and Pamela Valigura (right) with their vintage Christmas tree.

Coming in at third place was husband and wife Coach Operators Mike and Tina Hinkle with their “Special Ops Tree.” Classic green army soldiers and helicopters poised among the branches and a teddy bear in fatigues was deployed from the ceiling above.

The “Special Ops Tree” by Coach Operators Mike and Tina Hinkle

For a closer look at these trees as well as the other entries in the competition, view the slideshow below. Original themes included “Girls Night Out,” “The Baby Shower Tree,” “The Wave Tree,” “The Raiders Tree,” “The Manly Tree” and many more.

From all of us at Omnitrans, thank you for allowing us to serve you. We wish you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a safe and prosperous New Year.

Coach Operators: hiring the best of the best

Meet our newest coach operator graduates. Bottom row, left to right- Tondra Williams, Roy Everett, Valerie Nelson, Jeremy Aragon. Top row, left to right- Ron Maestos, Michael Garrett, Israel Eze, Curtis Barry

This month we welcomed our newest group of coach operator graduates. They recently completed 5-6 weeks of extensive training to pass their final tests and join our operations department as full-fledged coach operators.

But before they ever began that training, these aspiring drivers had to undergo an 8-step screening process that identified them as the best of the best of all potential candidates.  Did you know that on average only 8% of the people who apply for the position, actually go on to become an Omnitrans coach operator?

The majority of our applicants hear about job openings by subscribing to our job alerts. Others come to us through employee referrals or as walk-ins. For each opening we receive an average of 250 applicants, yet only around 20 are hired to begin actual training. And out of those trainees, often only half continue past the final exam.

Valerie Nelson (left) proudly shows off the coach operator certificate presented to her by Director of Operations, Diane Caldera (right).

Here’s a quick look at our 8 -step screening process, which helps us select those individuals best suited to become coach operators.

Step 1 – The Application
Surprisingly, many candidates are immediately eliminated in this first step because they have either failed to fill out portions of the application or have neglected to sign it. It is absolutely vital that you provide all the information requested in order to ensure your application isn’t passed over as incomplete.

Step 2 – The Minimum Qualifications
In order to even be considered for a coach operator position, an applicant must be 21 or older and have no more than 2 points within a 3 year period within 10 years of driving time.  A recent (not more than 30 days old) DMV-H6  form must be attached to the application form to even be considered for the position.

Step 3 -The Testing
Omnitrans does extensive testing on all applicants to assess their work ethics, customer service, and driving skills.  Those that pass the examination are placed on an eligibility list for a period of up to 1 year.

Step 4 – The Interview
An interview date is scheduled. When the applicant arrives, they will participate in  two sets of interviews, one with an HR representative and one with our operations department management team. An outstanding work ethic, strong driving skills, and excellent customer service all figure prominently in the selection process.

Step 5 – The Background Check
A background check is completed on all applicants to ensure they are candidates in good standing.

 Step 6 – The Pre-Assessment
Candidates are asked to perform several physical tasks that will determine if they can perform the essential job functions of a Coach Operator.  This could include such physical tasks as the ability to lift a certain amount of weight, simulating the tie down of a wheelchair, and having the ability to walk up and down steps repeatedly.

Step 7 – The Physical Screening
Our Occupational Health Provider administers a DOT physical exam and DOT drug test.  All candidates being considered for employment for all positions within the organization must successfully pass a physical examination and drug test before they are hired.

Step 8 – The Permit
Candidates must obtain a Class B driving permit with air brakes and passenger endorsement prior to employment.

Once a candidate is hired, they  must successfully complete 5-6 weeks of classroom and on the road training before graduating to  full-fledged coach operator. It’s truly an accomplishment of which to be proud!

If you happen to run into any of our new operators on your route, you’ll know that they are among the finest in their profession. Be sure to give them a shout out and say hi. They are looking forward to serving you.

You can view more photos of our graduating class on Flickr.

Thanks to Denise Gibson and Misty Tshilonda in HR for providing background information on our hiring process.

- Juno Kughler Carlson
juno.carlson@omnitrans.org

Graduating Coach Operator Curtis Barry is congratulated by his very proud mom.

Interested in a career at Omnitrans? Visit our career opportunities page for a list of open job positions.

Juno Carlson: Employee of The Quarter

Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter Juno Kughler Carlson“Connecting our Community” is more than just a slogan to Marketing Specialist Juno Kughler Carlson, it’s her mission. 

Juno oversees all social media communications at Omnitrans and utilizes these channels to engage people in conversations about Omnitrans and about life in general. Frequently these conversations turn into profiles of customers, employees and community partners which end up on her award-winning blog. 

“I love that I can write articles about our employees and passengers,” said Juno. “Coach Operators, business commuters, families, students, vets, volunteers—they are everyday heroes with personal stories that make you look at public transit in a whole new way. I think it’s one of the reasons our blog has become so popular. It’s human and it’s relatable.”

Customer stories reveal the impact that Omnitrans has on individual lives, which is essential to demonstrating Omnitrans’ value in the community. Employee profiles shine the spotlight on the many proud transit professionals working at Omnitrans, which helps bolster teamwork and agency morale.

“I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve been able to expand our online reach through our blog and social media. The blog has grown to become the backbone of our entire online marketing strategy, and the response on our social networks has been amazing.” Juno said.

Recently Juno developed a new, low cost Omnitrans mobile device app for customers.  Now available through Google Play and coming soon to iTunes, the app provides quick links to bus schedules, real time arrivals, and our Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube sites.

Hired in January 2012, due to her vast knowledge and experience in the social media arena, Juno has delivered, with our Facebook following growing from 974 to over 3,000. Her blog won a first place award in American Public Transportation Association’s AdWheel competition in 2012.  Due to her social media success, Juno was asked to present at the ATPA Marketing Communications Workshop and the California Transit Association fall conference this year.

While Juno uses the latest technology to engage customers, she strives to maintain a personal touch. “It’s important to communicate with our online customers as a real person and not some faceless Internet entity. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me how surprised they were to get a personal response to something they posted on our Facebook page,” she explained. “These types of social conversations not only provide us with valuable feedback on our services, they also help build trust and loyalty with our riders.”

- Wendy Williams
   Wendy.Williams@omnitrans.org