FTSN members suggested the establishment of standardized statewide curriculum/training focused on those factors that contribute to assaults and prevention methods – (would include the use of reality-based role playing and other strategies such as de-escalation methods) – both for new hires and refresher training. Topics could include:
- Dealing with Difficult Passengers
- Sensitivity Training
- Sexual Harassment
- Consequences of behavior
Members stressed that simply having a statement in the operator’s manual or a policy related to assaults and the prescribed operator’s response to a pending assault is not enough – training must be conducted and, as indicated above, must include reality-based scenarios and role playing.
Need to let operators know, from the beginning, that it is going to be a tough job, that they will need to turn the other check and that management is on their side, if applicable.
It was recognized that the process to mitigate assaults or other violent activities starts at the point in time a hiring selection process is undertaken.
Managing for Performance – Safety, Customer Service, Conflict and Work Ethic: A Guide for Transit Operator Trainers (the “Randy Pine” course), was mentioned as a great training tool to address de-escalation.
Reality-based customer service training:
- What really happens on-board
- How issues escalate out of control
- How passenger interact with each other and driver
Noted training method: Easy and inexpensive way to train operators is to have a short video that loops, in the driver’s lounge, they will absorb it without realizing.
An additional discussion point in the area of operator assaults included the support provided to employees. How are agencies supporting employees who have been victimized? What services do you make available to your bus operators? It was suggested that the lack of support to bus operators may lead to an “if you’re not going to help me…I’ll help myself” mentality. Basically, they feel the need to react to volatile situations.
Operators need to know that management has their back, as long as they are conducting themselves professionally and displaying suitable behavior. Bus operators should be given the specific options of what they can and cannot do in response to a confrontation.
Also need to look at methods to address the attitudes/behaviors of passengers such as:
- A passenger code of conduct
- Notifying passengers that they are being watched (unique display treatment/design notifying of the use of video/audio recording devices)
- Notifying passengers of the penalties associated with assaulting a bus operator
Finally, it was established as important that transit agency management/supervisors be visibly engaged with bus operators and passengers. The example given was periodic supervisor/operator/passenger interactions at transfer centers. View PDF Presentation of Bus Operator Barrier Program
A large part of the issue is that some operators are hired as part time and need to maintain a second job to insure their basic needs are covered.
A question was presented: What should be done if a driver shows up drowsy or disheveled – are they allowed to work? Most participants said yes, as they need to cover the run. Victor informed everyone that, although we are in the business of providing a service, safety comes first.
Network members discussed hours of service rules and what should be the required time off between shifts, 8 – 10 hours? Most thought that the 8 hours is insufficient, while there were those that thought there should be 10 hours between shifts. They did ask if they could look at Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations to see what is required for commercial drivers. Also want to look at the spread time – for those who are utilizing split shifts. Most agreed that the issue of “spread time” was considerably more important and a “bigger issue” than hours between shifts. They recognized the difficulty with restricting the spread time due to the need to have bus operators available during both the am and pm peak service periods.
Members mentioned research conducted by the FAA related to hours of “wakefulness” and sleep deprivation, suggesting it be utilized as resources for the group’s ongoing discussion of driver fatigue.
Jay Goodwill presented the content, related to criminal history background checks, of a recently conducted research report. He discussed the criteria contained within Section 14-90.004(3) (which addresses that criteria and procedures be established for background checks, but provides no direction beyond that) and the type of background checks performed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
A number of participants suggested that Chapter 14-90, FAC specify a minimum level of background checks required. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement does define Level I and II checks, but unless the transit agency is associated with performing social service agency related transportation, may not be performing Level 2 checks and may not be performing Level 1 checks as defined by Florida Statutes.
Floyd Webb from Suwannee Valley Transit suggested that the group look at the “Safe Driver Plan” he utilized when he was working for Yellow Cab. Through the availability of actuarial data and the required document/record review standard to the plan, “it made a difference in their loss experience.”
A caution was shared for those who currently utilize a third party to perform background checks. You must be specific with them [third party] about what they are to review and you must evaluate their effectiveness/performance at a regular interval.
Most seemed to want a standardization of what was acceptable for hire, based on the background checks. Some though that this was a subject that should be left to an agency’s discretion. In the event standards are developed for Florida’s transit agencies, a decision needs to be made regarding what finding(s) in a background check would be grounds for not hiring a prospective bus operator.
Victor discussed the possibility of having a statewide consortium to conduct and cover the cost of background checks. This may be accomplished through access to the Florida “Care Provider Background Screening Clearinghouse,” managed by the Agency for Healthcare Administration (AHCA). View PDF of Presentation
Follow Up Activity
The following items have been deferred to the FTSN Training and Bus Operator and Passenger Safety committees for discussion:
- Minimum criminal history background checks for Florida’s bus transit operators – Level 1 versus Level 2 (and associated criteria)
- Standardized new hire and annual refresher training content (including content specific to attitude/behaviors in an effort to mitigate bus operator assaults). Could include the expansion of the “Recommendations for Minimum Fixed Route Bus Operator Training Standards” contained within the FTSN meeting packet.
- Content for Annual Transit Safety Summit, scheduled for June 2, 2014 at the Embassy Suites @ USF, Tampa