Tag Archives: omnitrans coach operators

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.

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.”

DSC_0105

“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

DSC_0060

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.”

DSC_0066

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.”

DSC_0075

Million Mile Coach Operators Honored

Omnitrans Million Mile Drivers

Left to right:Million Mile Club Honorees Kenneth Brantley, Larry Pollard, Enedina Casillas, Joe Armenta, Marco Pacheco, Larry Day, John Barnett

This month, the Omnitrans Million Mile Club welcomed nine new 1 Million Mile drivers and three 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!

The coach operators were honored in a special awards ceremony at the Omnitrans Board of Directors meeting on March 5th. Each received a presentation certificate and a check for $500.

Omnitrans Million Mile Safe Driving Award

Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham, Board Chair Allan Wapner and Operations Director Diane Caldera present Million Mile Club honorees with certificates of achievement.

“This particular group not only has an exemplary safety record, they are also very customer service oriented,” says Transportation Manager John Steffon. “Their kindness, professionalism, courteousness and concern for others have earned them numerous commendations from our passengers.”

Our gratitude and congratulations go out to each of these exceptional coach operators who set the Omnitrans standard for safety and excellence:

Two Million Mile Drivers

  • John Barnett
  • LaMorris Hall
  • Marco Pacheco

One Million Mile Drivers

  • Joe Armenta
  • Kenneth Brantley
  • Enedina Casillas
  • William Collins
  • Larry Day
  • Ronda Downton
  • Glenn Licher
  • Michael Mayo
  • Larry Pollard

For more photos of our Million Mile honorees, visit us on Flickr.

DSC_0376

 

 

Coach operator grads hit the road

Back row left to right: Cassandra Henderson, John Parham, Dennis Elton, Mark Newton. Front row left to right: Julie Diaz, Regina Tootle and Kenya Finnell.

Omnitrans newest student coach operators were all smiles as they celebrated their graduation today.

Three of the graduates have a transit background and came to Omnitrans from other transit agencies. Kenya Finnell formerly drove both buses and trains for LA Metro. Mark Newton was previously a coach operator for Orange County Transportation Authority, and Regina Tootle had been a coach operator for Foothill Transit.

The other four graduates were newbies to the transit industry. Dennis Elton worked in jumper rentals. Julie Diaz has worked numerous customer service positions for a variety of companies including Wells Fargo. Cassandra Henderson is a mom of two who considers this her first real job. John Parham worked for 30 years as a postal worker.

Fleet Safety & Training Instructor Charles Molloy checks in with dispatch for driving assignments for our new coach operators.

“This was a really energetic class and all of them were a pleasure to have as students,” says Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Charles Molloy. “They worked well together, cared a lot about other and always had each other’s backs. They are a great addition to our fleet.”

Welcome aboard graduates! We’re excited to have you here and wish you best of luck on your first routes.

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Kenya Finnell

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Julie Diaz

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Regina Tootle

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator John Parham

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Cassandra Henderson

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Mark Newton

Omnitrans Director of Operations Diane Caldera and Coach Operator Dennis Elton

 

Leadership program encourages employee innovation

Six of our employees graduated from the Omnitrans Leadership Action Program (LAP) this month. During the 6-month program, each participant worked on a project of their choosing with the potential to improve a process or generate significant savings for Omnitrans. The participants thoroughly research their projects and present their findings to the executive leadership team for possible implementation. This year, the combined projects have the potential to save the agency more than $2 million per year!

Ross Hrinko: Benefits of Preventative Health & Wellness Programs
Encouraging participation in the agency’s Wellness Program, soliciting employee feedback and enhancing communication on preventative health are a few areas Ross targets as potential areas of refinement.  The introduction of “Company Nurse” services could assist employees with health issues, by making referrals or suggesting alternative treatment. This would cut back on costly and unnecessary doctor visits, while still providing valuable information and support to the patient.

Louise Acosta – Liquid Natural Gas Delivery vs. Pipeline Natural Gas
For her project, Louise investigated the pros and cons of switching from liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel delivery to pipeline natural gas. Omnitrans currently pays for the delivery of LNG fuel from a third party vendor. Natural pipeline gas would cost substantially less than LNG, but initially would require new equipment to compress the gas for our buses.

Joseph Tibita – Reorganizing Mobile Offices for Cost Reduction
Joseph’s goal was to redesign the equipment placement and storage  in our 15 Field Supervisor mobile offices for practical use and savings. By improving the positioning and layout of user interfaces and streamlining the wiring of data and power cables with a docking station, his plan eliminates the problem of lost time due to displaced equipment and slow system access, and prevents safety hazards.

Christina Diaz – Coach Simulator Acquisition & Training
Christina’s proposal to acquire a coach simulator for operator training was recently actualized. By partnering with Cal State San Bernardino in exchange for data generated by the simulator, Omnitrans was able to obtain the $70,000 simulator for free. Coaches are needed for many types of training, but pulling a coach from revenue service costs the agency approximately $90 per hour. As an added benefit, the simulator can safely mimic challenging and hazardous scenarios not easily duplicated on the road. This allows coach operators to improve their reaction times, behavioral driving, judgmental and perceptual skills. The simulator has also been successfully implemented by the Omnitrans workforce development program to introduce the public to regional coach operator careers.

Caroljo Mitcham –  CNG Conversion & Off-site Fueling of Access Fleet
Caroljo focused on the savings generated by transitioning our current Access paratransit fleet from unleaded gasoline to CNG fuel. By obtaining CNG fuel from an offsite service station, current regulatory compliance fees and tank maintenance would be eliminated and costs would be reduced.

 

Carolann Williams – Rostering Versus Cafeteria Run Bid Process
With the current cafeteria style run  bid, coach operators select and bid on the routes, shifts and days off they want. It is a lengthy process and, depending on how these are combined, can result in split days off for the coach operator. 
With rostering, off days are built into the work assignment, which  reduces the number of days the bid process takes, gives coach operators more varied work assignments to choose from, and minimizes the number of split days off.