On May 9th, Fleet Safety and Training Supervisor Don Frazier was named Omnitrans Employee of the Quarter for his dedication and invaluable contributions to success of the agency. His emphasis is always on the rider experience and on ensuring that our coach operators have the tools they need to be safe and successful. His knowledge, experience, professionalism, humor, friendly demeanor and willingness to always go the extra mile makes him an outstanding ambassador for Omnitrans and has earned the respect of his peers.
Don’s career in the transit industry has spanned more than 39 years and includes 24 years with LA Metro. His biggest challenge and one his proudest accomplishments has been his role in the launch of our new sbX BRT line.
Don was responsible for training his team, as well as our field supervisors, maintenance crews and other key agency staff, on the operation of the articulated coaches. 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. So much was new for us: longer coaches, rear fare validators, interior bike racks, rear-facing wheelchair securement, bus only lanes, center stations, level docking and traffic signal prioritizations. Thanks to Don’s program and his excellent 5-person training team, our operators were well prepared for launch of service.
“It was a huge amount of work,” admits Don. “And it was definitely a team effort. I had to ask a lot of my training staff. Many times they had to give up a day off or come in at 3 or 4 in the morning just so we could cover everything that had to be done. Often we had multiple training sessions going on at once: student coach operator training, sbX coach operator training, route training classes, and coach operator instructor classes. It was a grind, but we got through it. They are an amazing group of people and none of this could have been done without their help.”
One thing immediately evident to anyone who works with any of the training staff is their supportiveness and dedication to their students. That mentoring process means a lot to Don.
“Students tend to come in with that deer in the headlights look, feeling nervous and unsure of themselves,” Don smiles. “I always tell them, give us one year. You’ll see everything and experience everything and see if this is really for you. Recently a student from my very first training class here reminded me of that. She’s been here 12 years now. She told that she owes a lot of what she has to what she learned from me. That can’t help but make you feel good. You’re making a difference in other people’s lives, seeing them become happier and more confident.”
Don believes a good work ethic and a positive attitude are critical for student coach operators.
“The toughest part of the job for me is when I have to tell a student they’re not cutting it. I want to help people be successful. If you are lacking in driving skills but are willing to learn and have a great attitude, I’ll even come in on the weekend and work with you to help you get this job. But if you don’t have the right mindset or the proper attitude coming in the door, then you simply won’t be a good fit. Not everyone is cut out to be a coach operator. It’s a tough job. You have to have good people skills and good driving skills. It’s a great job, but it’s also hard.”
Don is looking forward to adding a new resource to the training arsenal very soon. Thanks to a federal grant, Omnitrans will be getting an on-premises coach simulator tailored specifically to real life agency vehicles and routes. It’s something he has lobbied for over many years, and he is excited to see it about to become a reality.
“This is the next wave of technology,” says Don. “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 are getting it for $20,000—all of which is covered by a federal grant. It’s an incredible opportunity for us.”