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Omnitrans Earns Top Industry Honors in Transit Safety and Security

Omnitrans accepts APTA Bus Safety & Security Gold Awards in Louisville, Kentucky. From left: Omnitrans Director of Operations Shawn Brophy, Director of Maintenance Connie Raya, Safety & Regulatory Compliance Specialist Terry Morocco, Fleet Safety & Training Instructor Kimberly Perkins, Maintenance Supervisor Victoria Chesney, APTA President & CEO Paul Skoutelas.

Omnitrans snags the gold! We are proud to be recognized by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) for improvements made to the safety and security of our customers and employees. The Bus Safety & Security Excellence Gold Awards were presented in a ceremony held in Louisville, Kentucky on May 21.

“These awards recognize our team’s efforts to build a strong safety and security culture through constant vigilance and continual innovation,” said Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham. “The public entrusts us with transporting them safely and securely wherever life takes them, and that remains our top priority.”

Winning transit agencies were selected by APTA based on four criteria: project effectiveness; benefits accrued directly from the positive impact of the program; innovation; and project transferability that allows other transit systems to replicate the success.

“These award-winning public transportation programs are models of excellence in the areas of safety and security,” said APTA President and CEO Paul P. Skoutelas. “The implementation of these initiatives demonstrates the ongoing commitment to improving safety and security for their passengers, employees, and communities in the public transit industry.”

On the security front, Omnitrans was lauded for its innovative creation of an amateur radio service that ensures our ability to communicate with emergency responders throughout our service area during emergency events, when cellular/mobile and landline telephone services are lost.  The Inland Valley Emergency Communications Service HAM radio group has grown from 8 members in 2015 to 22 members in 2019.

On the safety side, Omnitrans was commended for implementation of technology, equipment, and training program improvements which contributed to a 32% reduction in preventable accidents since 2012.  Efforts included the addition of audible turn signals on buses and new-generation mobility device securement equipment to all buses. Currently, Omnitrans is also piloting automated collision-avoidance technology.

Safety training innovations include a state-of-the-art bus driving simulator used by coach operator trainees to supplement classroom and behind-the-wheel training.  Omnitrans also employs two Fleet Safety Trainers who are DMV Certified Examiners, which streamlines the process to complete mandated DMV required testing needed to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License.

Omnitrans is appreciative of all the dedicated employees whose contributions have led to this prestigious industry recognition! Below is a video highlighting the improvements that garnered us this “nation’s best” award.

Employee of the Quarter Steve Sisneros

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.”

(From left to right) Omnitrans Deputy CEO/General Manager Erin Rogers, Omnitrans Board of Directors Chair Ron Dailey, Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Steve Sisneros, and Omnitrans CEO/General Manager Scott Graham at October’s Board of Directors meeting, where Steve was presented with his Employee of the Quarter award.

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.