Safety Director 101

Presented as part of ABA’s BISC & BusMARC 2021 Virtual Safety & Maintenance Series

As part of their ongoing educational webinar series, the American Bus Association (ABA) hosted a virtual meeting with presenters Mike McDonal, BusMARC chair and director of regulatory compliance and industry relations at Saucon Technologies, and Jeff Marley, regional manager for Lancer Insurance.

McDonal and Marley focused on monitoring driver performance, hours of service and remedial driver training and coaching.

Monitoring Driver Performance, Hours of Service and Remedial Driver Training

According to McDonal, monitoring driver performance has become a much smoother process since the introduction of telematics into the motorcoach industry.

“It used to be that once our drivers left the lot, we really didn’t know what they were doing,” McDonal explained. “We now know exactly what is happening all the time. The question now is, what should we actually be monitoring?” 

While monitoring activity such as speeding and idling is considered standard practice, the introduction of newer technology now allows for the monitorization of interaction with passengers, vehicle inspections and regular service reports and violations.

“Once we determine what we want to look at, we then need to establish how we are going to measure that component, what kind of threshold we are going to use as our standard of an acceptable behavior, and how we are going to apply that to part time versus full-time drivers,” McDonal said.  

McDonal noted that with so many ways to monitor driver performance, it is crucial to ensure that a program is well established with obtainable and consistent thresholds for success. 

When introducing a company policy, potential considerations should include information that is easy to find and understand, information that is available to the drivers in real time, and driver’s ability to challenge negative reports or violations.

“It’s important to measure, not only driver performance, but driver behaviors as well as your expectations of employee conduct,” McDonal explained.” Do not forget to monitor hours. Remember the basics, eight consecutive hours off, ten hours driving, 15 hours on duty, 60 hours in a seven-day period and 70 hours in an eight-day period. Check daily for violations. The biggest concern that we’ve had since day one is drivers forgetting to log off at the end of their day which can put them into a 15-hour violation.”

Most systems allow operators to track drivers by the day, week, or month, with customizable scoring parameters and driver review metrics. Allowing drivers to examine and assess their own driving behavior with consistent data enables more effective driver development and provides drivers the opportunity to challenge a report before receiving an official score.

Through telematics, accessible reports and alerts are available in real time, enabling drivers and operators to view these alerts directly from their own ELD tablet or cell phone at any time. 

Handling drivers with a poor performance matrix

“As drivers return, it’s important that they not only recall how to do a proper inspection, but that they know how to use the ELD and any other technology that you may have introduced since they’ve been away,” McDonal said. “We generally go through a coaching process on an individual basis, to determine if the driver needs a bit of additional help or if it’s something that needs more attention.”

According to Marley, any effective refresher program should cover mirror adjustments, blind spots, off tracking, pivot points and tail swings. 

Mirror Adjustments 

The first step of operating a motorcoach is to set the driver’s seat, steering wheel, and mirrors, Marley explained. The driver should have full visibility of their side mirror, with the mirror set flat and a clear view of the drive tire touching the pavement in the bottom righthand corner of the mirror. 

The convex mirror distorts the driver’s view and is generally used for larger objects. This mirror should be set similarly to the flat mirror with about an inch of the coach visible on the inside portion of the mirror. Then find the middle marker light on the vehicle and position it in the middle and all the way to the right side of the mirror.

Passenger side mirrors should have about an inch of the coach visible on the inside of the mirror with the middle marker light set in the middle and all the way to the inside left of the mirror. The flat mirror should be adjusted depending on highway or intercity driving.

Blind Spots 

A full-sized motorcoach usually has a 5-foot blind spot in the front and back of the vehicle, as well as on the right passenger side corner. 

“Setting your mirrors appropriately is very important when it comes to blind spots,” Marley explained. “If you set your mirrors correctly, you shouldn’t have a problem. Know your coach’s dimensions, especially the height and weight. This is very important to review with returning drivers.”

Off Tracking 

Off tracking, the tracking of the rear wheels inside of the front wheels, is often a big component in fixed object accidents. Off tracking requires careful consideration from the driver in order to effectively calculate if the back end of the motorcoach is going to fit wherever the front end leads. 

Pivot Points 

“When I cross that line with the back rest of my seat is when I’m going to start my turn,” Marley said.  “Remember this is city driving so I have my passenger side flat mirror down so I can see my drive tire touching the pavement and I’m going to start my turn. As far as the pivot point goes, that’s when you want to start making your turn.”

Tail Swings 

According to Marley, any kind of fixed object on the sidewalk or wall is going to require a tail swing when pulling out or away from a curb. 

“What a lot of people don’t realize is that you also have front swing,” Marley noted. “When you have front swing is when you’re going in reverse. Now the swing is opposite, it is back to the front. It’s very important to go over these techniques with your motorcoach operators.”

There is no doubt that training is always better that retraining. Starting off with an effective training program can result in far fewer instances of retraining and greatly reduce the number of claims down the road, McDonal explained. 

“We all know that a lot of times when we’re riding with a driver, their behavior is going to be different than when you’re not sitting right behind them,” McDonal said. “Make your drivers realize that even though you may not be in the seat behind them, you are still monitoring them through your telematics, through your video systems and things like that. That you are really there with them all the time.” 

When considering disciplinary action, McDonal noted that it is important to consult company policies concerning any driver infraction, ensuring that these procedures are kept up-to-date and in writing.