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Bus Training Simulators Prevent Job Strain, Improve Retention

As Jared Stancil, a VP at Nashville-based Anchor Tours, told a reporter back in 2013, “We have already invested a lot of time and energy in the drivers we have hired, and it is becoming increasingly harder to replace them. This is a very tough market for us to find quality drivers.”

Conditions haven’t changed.

If anything, the challenge of finding and retaining good drivers has increased.  This isn’t just a matter of a tight job market making it hard to fill open positions especially when it comes to operating large vehicles.

Driving a bus poses its own unique physical challenges. According to CityLab, “chronic muscle and skeletal strains are common among drivers, another factor explaining high rates of absenteeism and turnover.”

In part, this is the nature of the job:  Most drivers are sitting for 8 to 12 hours with few breaks.  That, by itself, is tremendously stressful on the body.  This is compounded by a few bad habits that easily creep into an operator’s daily routine, but prove devilishly hard to address in conventional bus driver training situations.


Bus Driver Training to Prevent Repetitive Strain Injury

Zerry Hogan is a U.S. Department of Transportation Transit Safety Institute-certified instructor and recognized expert in transit and transportation training.  He’s found that something as simple as setting up your seat properly can have a whole host of benefits:

  • Avoid unnecessary strain on the knee and leg by forcing the driver to engage the entire leg, not just the calf and ankle
  • Engage the arm and shoulder through proper steering wheel technique (drivers chronically overstrain their wrists and elbows)
  • Sit properly to avoid back, shoulder, and neck strain

But it’s extremely hard to actively observe these aspects of how a trainee is operating the vehicle in traffic.

“You have a novice student at the wheel of a bus in traffic,” Hogan explains, “he or she can easily get into an accident if you don’t watch that student very carefully, giving them instruction.”

For safety, your eyes are on the road—not on the student’s hands and feet, shoulders and lower back.

“Working in the simulator allows you to fully observe the operator’s habits—without also having to divide your attention, to be sure they’re safe on the road.  So you can pause the simulation at any time, show them what they’re doing, and ask ‘Why are you doing it that way?’ Then you aren’t just showing them the right way, but giving them the Why—why you need to take a moment to adjust that seat correctly, why you need to hold your hands correctly.”

Being able to grab those “teachable moments” immediately, make the student aware of the habit, and correct it, has proven nearly twice as effective when compared with conventional lecture-lot-road training.

Repetitive strains and chronic injuries that leave bus operators to leave the profession, “These are issues we can correct so much more effectively during simulation training.”