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Employee of the Year: Don Frazier

On February 4th, Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier was named Omnitrans Employee of the Year for his dedication and invaluable contributions to success of the agency.

Don was critical to the successful launch of our sbX rapid transit service. 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. Thanks to his excellent program and the hard work of his training team, our coach operators were well prepared for the April launch.

The latest Omnitrans training tool: the virtual coach simulator

His commitment to innovation has led our training program to new heights, most recently with the introduction of a virtual coach simulator. It is used as a defensive driving tool to give coach operators the opportunity to face challenging crisis scenarios not easily duplicated in their actual road training. Don constantly looks for new tools and training programs that he can implement with little cost to the agency.

However, to see where Don truly shines, you simply need to talk to the members of his team who nominated him for the Employee of the Year Award.

Don Frazier with trainers Charles Molloy, Stephen McClure, and Christina Diaz

“He is very fair and he watches out for his crew,” says Instructor Charles Molloy frankly. “He takes care of us and wants the best of everything for us. As far as tools or training materials—anything we need—he goes to bat for us.  And it’s because he’s come up through the ranks and knows what we’re facing. I’ve been here going on 21 years and have seen a lot of people in that position, and he’s the best by far. He’s worked hard to bring in innovative training tools like the new coach simulator. Since he became supervisor, this department has risen to a whole new level.”

Don on a test drive in one of the sbX articulated buses

“In my opinion, Don is very deserving of this award,” adds Instructor Christina Diaz. “He is a cool, calm, collected, flexible supervisor. He always has an open door policy. He is always open to suggestions and ideas. For me personally, I feel fortunate and grateful to work for someone like him. He’s been a great mentor to me and has taken me pretty much under his wing.  Even though he’s a supervisor, he’s had no reservations about taking time out of his busy schedule to work with me and show me Omni way. And I’m very appreciative of that.”

Omnitrans trainer Kimberly Perkins

Omnitrans trainer Kimberly Perkins

“Wow. What can I say?” says Instuctor Kimberly Perkins. “I just feel he’s taken us to a whole new level with new equipment and programs we never had before. He’s very good about listening to our suggestions and going to bat for us. I feel like I can go to him for anything. You know how sometimes you can feel so stressed by your boss that you don’t even want to come to work? Don’s the opposite. He makes you want to be here. He supports you and encourages you to give it your best. He always fair and treats all of us the same.”

Stephen McClure agrees. “Don is fair and follows the rules. He’s extremely nice to work for. Whenever I’ve talked with my wife about some of the things he’s done, she says ‘Wow, you really have a good boss.’  And she’s right. I have worked in my lifetime for many people—including myself—and he’s the best.” He grins, “And when you get to be as old as I am, you’ve worked for a lot of people.”

Omnitrans CEO P. Scott Graham, Operations Director Diane Caldera, Employee of the Year Don Frazier, and Board Chair Alan Wapner

Don seems a little overwhelmed by their comments.

“That means a lot to me, and it really hits me emotionally,” he confesses. “Last year was so tough on all of us. We had several large coach operator student classes, a coach operator instructor recruitment class, several return to work and accident prevention workshops and new DMV certifications to meet. We also had to train ourselves on the new sbX articulated buses  and learn to operate the corridor so that we could in turn train the coach operators. “

Don shakes his head, thinking back. “We were literally going non-stop all the time, pulling long hours and making personal sacrifices in order to do what needed to be done. They are an awesome team, and I’m incredibly proud of everything we’ve accomplished together.”

Director of Operations, Diane Caldera is not surprised. “When you lead by example and really care about and support your staff the way Don does, they will move the earth for you. We have one of the finest training teams in the industry and there is no end to what they can achieve.”

 Juno Kughler Carlson

Don’s daughter Sandi Coria, his wife Audrey and son-in-law Phil Coria attended the award presentation to show their support and celebrate his achievement

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

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