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Train and Retain: Using Sims for Transit Operator Pre-Hire Assessments

Train and Retain: Using Sims for Transit Operator Pre-Hire Assessments


Transit agencies have always struggled with high rates of burnout. Recent trends have made that struggle even harder. The number of bus operators have fallen significantly since the COVID pandemic, and a tight labor market has made it even harder to find workers, especially in demanding fields. According to some sources, around 20 percent of all bus drivers leave the field in their first year, and more than 50 percent have left by the end of the second.

Recruitment is already tricky: fewer young people are getting driver’s licenses. They come to the job with less driving experience, let alone experience with a large commercial vehicle. After investing significant resources into recruiting and training new drivers, transit agencies want to be reasonably confident that new hires will stick around.

Using Simulation to Teach Driving Skills—and More

FAAC has led the way supporting agencies in building a more reliable workforce. This began with fielding the world’s first immersive simulation-based bus operator training tools, and has continued with the recent incorporation of customer service and operator response training applications.

This latest generation of training simulators provide more comprehensive instruction for new hires, encompassing both the technical and interpersonal challenges that come with the job—all at lower risk and greater efficiency than closed-course or on-the-road training.

FAAC Transit Business Manager Jason Francisco says, “I was just talking with a transit agency in Central Ohio, and they had this litany of reasons people washed out of training or left after just a few months. For some, it was that they couldn’t handle the customer side. For others, they struggled with the functional side. Before you even hire someone, before you invest resources in putting them into the human resource information system—let alone start training—you can perform a pre-hire driving assessment in our simulator to see if the demands of operating a bus are what that a candidate really wants and can do.”

Sim-based pre-hire assessments like these provide agencies with a wealth of information about how the job candidate will perform the broad range of challenges that come with driving a mass transit vehicle: critical defensive driving skills, situational awareness, communication, public service, conflict de-escalation, and more.

Transit Response and “Soft Skills” Training

All FAAC simulators come with authoring and assessment tools that help agencies more quickly develop a better sense of trainees’ response tendencies.

For example, every FAAC bus operator training simulator has VITALS (the Virtual Instructor Trainee Assessment and Learning System). VITALS acts as an interactive playbook for instructors. It facilitates an effective review and assessment process, helping instructors and students evaluate performance point by point and analyze the outcome of certain decisions before behind the wheel training.

FAAC also offers Transit Response, an immersive interactive training system that reinforces procedures for intense situational training. Transit Response can be added to any MB 2000 Bus Simulator or Paratransit Simulator. Transit Response includes a full library of common emergency, de-escalation, and customer service situations. Transit agencies may also opt to have FAAC’s production team come and create completely custom interactive training scenarios for them. These are scripted by our experts in collaboration with your agency stakeholders and trainers, and they are then filmed on-site at your transit agency using your fleet.

Simulation-based training has been proven to improve drivers’ situational awareness and confidence. By tailoring sim-based training materials to meet your agency’s specific needs, instructors can quickly assess new hires and then track trainees’ performance and decision-making skills, both behind the wheel and when faced with unexpected rider needs or demands.

FAAC is eager to partner with transit agencies looking to make the most out of custom simulation-based training. That’s why we invest time in understanding your needs upfront and then work closely with your team to develop and deliver the appropriate training solution. Contact us today to explore new ways to train and retain the best drivers.