Tag Archives: omnitrans maintenance

Celebrating a 35-Year Journey at Omnitrans

Rudy H. was joined by colleagues and staff in the East Valley body shop to celebrate his 35th anniversary earlier this month.

In 1978, Rudy Hernandez was just a young adult in an apprenticeship at Omnitrans, trying to figure out a viable career path after high school. Three years later, that student program ceased, and Rudy had to seek an outside opportunity, but his sights remained set on Omnitrans. This month, Rudy celebrates a remarkable milestone – his 35th year working with the agency’s Maintenance Department.

“Omnitrans was always very supportive and encouraged me to continue my education, so I went on to junior college while working here in the student program,” says Rudy. “In 1981, the program ended after three years, so I went to work somewhere else. I worked there about three years, but there were a lot of airborne hazardous materials and chemicals at the worksite, and they did not take safety very seriously. I left after applying for a job opening back at Omnitrans and getting re-hired.”

In the late 1970’s, Omnitrans was an up and coming transit agency in the San Bernardino Valley. There was no bus wash in the bus yard back then – just water, a mop, and a broom. Depending on the direction the wind was blowing at that time of day, maintenance staff had to face the bus in the opposite direction to keep from being splashed as they hosed the buses at the end of their run!

“When I came back to Omnitrans in 1984 as a utility service worker, we now had a bus wash, a bigger crew and supervisors who were good leaders and trainers,” says Rudy. “Before that, there was less organizational structure and less guidance when it came to our tasks.”

Over the years, Rudy’s exceptional performance earned him job promotions to mechanic helper, and in 1990, he became an equipment mechanic, the position he has held since. He has always enjoyed doing work that is hands-on and gets satisfaction from finding solutions to new problems he encounters while working on buses. This is how Rudy defines his success and the reason why he has had a rewarding career with Omnitrans.

Although Rudy preferred a career working in the shop rather than pursuing a management role in the office, as a senior employee he has still had the opportunity to help guide and pass down first-hand knowledge and experience to new employees as they come into the shop and begin their own career journeys.

“Sometimes, younger employees come to work here, and they are so quiet that they may not even greet you,” says Rudy. “When I began working here, I attended a training session and the instructor told us to always greet people walking down the hall and to be welcoming. When you are cordial with your co-workers, that helps build relations and become family faster.”

“I developed that habit and have learned that it helps you become a team much quicker, but it takes gray hair to learn that,” laughs Rudy. “When I was younger, I was probably the same way, but eventually you realize that other people are just as important as you are. It’s one big machine and it takes everyone to keep it running.”

Maintenance Director Connie Raya (right) and Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant (left) presented Rudy (center) with a special award of appreciation for his years of service.

Rudy’s managers and peers describe him as a committed, diligent employee – so much so, that after 35 years at Omnitrans, he has a near impeccable attendance record, and never took a sick family day off despite having gone through several losses including his father and both grandmothers.

“Rudy is a reliable, trustworthy, and dependable team member,” says Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant. “He takes his work very seriously and has been a pleasure to work with over the years.”

“I have always been taught to go to work on time, stay focused, and do a good job every day,” says Rudy of his secret to career longevity. “When I had a paper route as one of my first jobs, we had to deliver each paper to each house within a certain timeframe. That’s where I learned the importance of timeliness. Show up on time and do a good job. It’s been that way ever since, and I’ll go out with that mentality.”

Congratulations, Rudy! Omnitrans is thankful for all your years of dedicated service.

Employee of the Quarter Vickie Chesney

For Maintenance Shift Supervisor Victoria Chesney (known to co-workers as Vickie) accomplishing tasks successfully is simply “all in a day’s work,” which is why she was surprised to learn that she was Omnitrans’ Employee of the Quarter.

“I did not see that one coming at all,” reveals Vickie. “I’m very grateful and humbled. I’m just here doing my job, doing what I get paid to do.”

Vickie, 19-year member of the Omnitrans family, began her career as a Utility Service Worker, then climbed the ranks to Mechanic Helper, Mechanic, and presently Shift Supervisor. Throughout her various roles, her objective has remained consistent, which is to make pull out (to have available the number of vehicles needed to execute service operations) and have all buses in the yard, with no mechanical difficulties.

“I appreciate our dispatchers, but if I don’t hear from them, that’s a good thing for us,” she jokingly says. However, Vickie’s job doesn’t start and end in the mechanic shop. She is a dedicated asset to Omnitrans who volunteers countless hours, many outside of her normal work duties, to serve on several internal and national committees to advance the agency and industry, including:

  • Omnitrans Bus Roadeo Committee, VIP Chairperson
  • American Public Transportation Association (APTA) International Bus Roadeo Committee
  • Southern California Regional Roadeo, Maintenance Chairperson

“Idle hands are the devil’s hands,” she laughs. Vickie’s leadership on these committees helps ensure each Roadeo event is a well-received success that positions Omnitrans in a favorable light to employees and peer agencies involved.

The Roadeo competition, in which bus drivers and mechanics put their skills and knowledge to the test, is near and dear to Vickie. “When I was a mechanic, I competed in the local Roadeo and we won first place, so we got to compete at the regional and the national Roadeo,” she recalls. “Once I was promoted to supervisor, there was an opportunity to serve on the committee. Our director was kind enough to let me participate and I’ve been involved since.”

A benefit of Vickie’s involvement is the network she has built within the transit industry, which adds value to Omnitrans. “One of the advantages of serving at the national level is that you get to see what other agencies are doing,” she shares.

“You see the commonalities, and because this industry is non-competitive, other agencies are more than willing to share their best practices, successes, and failures with you. It’s a collaborative environment that helps us all succeed to better serve our community at the end of the day.”

From left to right: Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant, Board of Directors Vice Chair David Avila, Maintenance Shift Supervisor Victoria Chesney, CEO/General Manager Scott Graham, and Deputy General Manager Erin Rogers.

Additionally, last quarter, Vickie was chosen to serve and represent Omnitrans as a subject matter expert for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE is a professional certification group for mechanics and shops within the automotive repair and service industry in the United States and in parts of Canada.

“We have a specialty group within the transit community for all aspects of bus repair,” she explains. “There are eight ASE tests total under the transit bus series, covering every facet of the bus from compressed natural gas engines, brakes, to heating ventilation and air conditioning. We come together at workshops and contribute questions to the test that all mechanics in the country must pass for certification.”

Additionally, Vickie has served as chairperson of the Omnitrans Vehicle Improvement Partnership Committee, an internal committee in which she takes coach operator feedback, from their viewpoint, and implements it on the maintenance side to enhance bus operation and safety of our drivers and passengers alike.

Last quarter, Vickie also collaborated with the Procurement department to develop a paint and body supply contract. “We’ve been working with procurement to get vendors in place to supply our paint and body shop materials,” she says. “By securing vendors under contract, instead of issuing general purchase orders on an as-needed basis, we have more fixed control on receiving supplies in a timely manner, and Omnitrans saves on the cost of materials.”

Vickie’s commitment, accomplishments, and collaborative nature have all led her to this recognition. In typically humble fashion, she states, “I would like to recognize my crew that I work with daily. These are the guys who have their hands on everything and work on the buses, so any success in our department is because of the guys on the floor.”

As for what lies ahead, Vickie looks forward to growing with Omnitrans. At this time, she is working toward a bachelor’s degree, is a member of Omnitrans’ Leadership Development Academy Manager’s track and will be applying for promotional opportunities should they arise.

“I’m very thankful to work in an organization that fosters an environment where we can pursue different opportunities,” she says. “There’s an altruistic component to what we do as a public service. We’re fortunate to be in a position where we help people get to where they need to go, a lot of whom would otherwise not have transportation.”

Employee of the Year Omar Bryant

Effective team leaders go beneath the surface of extensive job knowledge or industry expertise and tap into their innate ability to inspire and motivate, even under unexpected circumstances. This is a special quality that Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant has, helping him earn the title of Omnitrans Employee of the Year for 2018.

“I feel humbled and honored to receive this award,” says Omar. “I just do my best to support my boss and my staff, so the recognition was a bit of a surprise. For those of us in maintenance, the goal is to make pull-out of buses to meet the community’s transit needs every day. There are people out there who rely on us, so that’s what our focus is all about. Some days it’s not so easy, but we all work together as a team to achieve that.”

As the manager overseeing our East Valley maintenance shop of six supervisors and 50 employees, including mechanics and utility service workers, Omar is directly responsible for the reliability and cleanliness of our bus fleet of over 200 buses. It is a large task that requires him to not simply be knowledgeable about every moving part of a 40-foot bus, but also to effectively lead people in a department that works around the clock.

From left to right: Deputy General Manager Erin Rogers, Board of Directors Vice Chair David Avila, Maintenance Manager Omar Bryant, CEO/General Manager Scott Graham, and Director of Maintenance Connie Raya.

In October of 2017, after a sudden tragedy left the Maintenance department without a director, Omar was asked to step in and take over in the interim. He seamlessly assisted the General Manager and Deputy General Manager to keep the department operating smoothly and working toward agency goals and objectives.

“It was a challenging time for Omar and the rest of the department. However, he showed tremendous leadership and was able to keep the team motivated,” says current Director of Maintenance Connie Raya. “He is a great natural leader with a can-do spirit, who stepped up and displayed his loyalty to his team and agency during a difficult time.”

Department operations had to carry on amid these circumstances. One of the agency’s 2018 strategic initiatives called for repower of 63 buses. By repowering our existing compressed natural gas (CNG) buses with near-zero emission engines, Omnitrans has the ability to delay the mandated purchase of electric buses to further strategize purchasing and infrastructure needs before beginning to electrify our fleet.

Omar was responsible for overseeing the repower project – from writing purchasing scopes to order the engines, swapping out transmissions, and finally, installing the new near-zero engines on buses. The transition from one fuel technology to another is not something new for Omar, who started his career with Omnitrans as a Utility Service Worker before promoting upward to his current position. Throughout the years, bus fuel has shifted from diesel, to CNG, bringing us to the present – the early stages of electric battery buses.

“Learning the new technologies has been a positive experience. Although transitioning from a new technology to another has its pains, it’s what we need to do. Our air quality is better than it used to be in the past, so despite the costs and the growing pains, it’s a good thing to do,” he says.

Omar is also one of few employees hand-chosen to participate in the inaugural Manager’s track of the Leadership Development Academy, which develops future leaders as part of Omnitrans’ succession planning efforts. Omar has spent the past year working with his peers and our leadership program consultants to sharpen his managerial skills and broaden his understanding of the organization, preparing him for future upward mobility.

This Employee of the Year recognition has been years in the making. When Omar began his career journey as a 20-year-old recently out of mechanic school, his ambitions lied in working with earth-moving equipment. Nearly 28 years later, he remains committed to Omnitrans and connecting our community.

“When I started, I thought I’d be a mechanic for the rest of my career. I never foresaw that I would be in a leadership position, but the opportunities came, and I went for them. That is what is so great about working at Omnitrans. If you are willing to put in the work, you are trained and supported to grow in your career.”

Omnitrans is proud to commend Omar on an exceptional job well done and earning the Employee of the Year award. We appreciate his extraordinary commitment to the agency and to ensuring that our community has clean, reliable, and safe transportation to connect them from point A to point B.

Omnitrans Selects Connie Raya for Maintenance Director

(San Bernardino, CA)  Southern California transit veteran Connie Raya recently joined Omnitrans as Director of Maintenance.

Raya has over two decades of experience in public transit maintenance gained while working at the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA). At Omnitrans, she will oversee a department of 108 employees responsible for maintaining a fleet of 188 buses and 25 support vehicles as well as multiple agency facilities.

“I’m excited to join Omnitrans, and to be part of an organization striving to improve the lives of residents living and working in the community, helping to improve air quality and mobility, by providing clean, safe, and reliable transportation in the San Bernardino Valley,” said Raya.

Raya joined OCTA in 1993 working in the Commuter Services Department. After earning a Bachelor’s degree from the University of Redlands, Raya transitioned to maintenance as a Fleet Analyst. From there, Raya continued to gain experience and be promoted, working her way up to Maintenance Resource Manager in 2006. In this role she was responsible for managing fleet assignments for revenue and non-revenue fleets, overseeing various maintenance systems used for asset management, timekeeping, and fluid management, along with overseeing the manpower deployment for the department.

In recent years, Raya took on various special assignments including the management of the facilities group assigned to maintain five operating bases and seven transit centers. As a division Base Manager she oversaw a wide range of maintenance functions including rebuild, automotive, maintenance training, electronics, and the body shop.

In 2016, Raya completed her Master of Science in Transportation Management from the Norman Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University. “Since then I have been searching for this type of opportunity to combine my experience and enthusiasm to make a significant contribution to a transit agency,” said Raya.

Founded in 1976, Omnitrans is an award-winning public transit agency providing over 11 million passenger trips per year in the San Bernardino Valley. Omnitrans is governed by a 19-member board representing 15 cities and San Bernardino County.