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Using Bus Simulators in Collision Mitigation: A Three-Step Process

 

Your bus simulator is an ideal tool for addressing a bus-on-bus, fixed-object, or pedestrian-contact collision/near miss. But some agencies find themselves having trouble “getting traction” with their corrective action. Often, this comes down to having an inefficient or inconsistent strategy for addressing the root causes of those collisions and near misses. By adopting a “List/Fix/Follow-Up” approach, you can be sure you’re building your collision mitigation strategy on a solid foundation:

 

1.LIST possible factors contributing to the collision

2. “FIX” the problem, minimizing or eliminating those factors

3. FOLLOW-UP to be sure the fix worked

 

It’s important to bear in mind that even if the post-collision verdict is that this was a non-preventable contact, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an opportunity to improve forward planning and recognize the problem before it’s a problem. You may even discover that the issue isn’t in the operator at all. It’s entirely possible that some element of your agency’s standard operating procedure (SOP) fails to properly account for a road reality your operators face. Consistently using List/Fix/Follow-Up makes it much easier to pinpoint address such shortfalls.

 

LIST THE FACTORS

Very few collisions arise from a single factor. Working from the written collision report, begin by listing primary and contributing factors that led to the incident. For example, if the collision report indicates that the point of contact between a private vehicle and the bus was on the bus’s right side, it’s safe to assume that failing to cover the right led to the collision. The bus operator inadvertently gave that driver the sense that they were “welcome” to move up alongside the bus and put themselves in harm’s way.

But “failing to cover the right” can have many causes: was the operator distracted by a customer service issue? Was speed a contributing factor? Incorrect right side mirror positioning or use? Incorrect seat setup?

Armed with your list, review video from the bus camera system and interview the operator, to be sure you understand both what happened and what the operator perceived was going on (which are often very different). This step may add items to your list, or cross items off.

Finally, perform a simulator-based performance review. This is somewhat better than doing an on-board review, as the safety of the sim allows you to focus entirely on the operator, without worrying about public safety. We’ve found that being able to give the operator your undivided attention during this review is extremely valuable; you may note small lapses in SOP that are having an outsized impact on operator performance. You may also be able to rule out certain factors at this stage.

 

FIX THE PROBLEMS

Now that you understand the problem, corrective action is relatively straight-forward. Your bus simulator likely came with a library of scenarios that can address any fundamental skills issue or lapse in SOP. Higher quality sims will also include a set of open software tools so you can craft your own simulation scenario, customized to the collision conditions from this specific incident and branching from there.

The initial bus simulation session may take a bit longer, as it often needs to include longer training and debriefing portions, so the trainer can “tune” the scenario to the collision factors that need attention. But this is a good investment of time: subsequent simulation training and retraining sessions can be very short, reviewing the critical skill, procedure, or policy multiple times in just a few minutes.

 

FOLLOW-UP

This is the step that most often falls by the wayside. Do several on-board performance reviews, as well as regular short follow-up drives or re-trainings in the simulator. Has the troublesome behavior crept back in? Have other problem factors cropped up? This is a job that tests the patience, endurance, and focus of even the best drivers. Everyone benefits from having the opportunity to step back and objectively see how they’re doing.