As my time as chair of the Bus Industry Safety Council (BISC) winds down, I am grateful for this opportunity to contribute the BISC Report. Some incredible individuals make up the bus and motorcoach industry, many who I’ve been proud to meet and hopefully serve in some small way.
Special thanks go out to the BISC Executive Committee for their support; Mike Colborne, CEO of Pacific Western Group of Companies, as the presenting sponsor of this column; and to David Hubbard, associate publisher for BUSRide, for his help in putting it all together.
Looking after safety in the bus world can be a very busy proposition. We have to stay informed; ensure we comply; monitor and follow up with drivers; process never-ending piles of paperwork; embrace emerging technologies; and perform accident and incident investigations — and that’s just for starters. Many of us also, on occasion, fill in for dispatch or take on driving assignments.
With 94 percent of all operators running fewer than 25 buses and coaches, we are an industry of small businesses where each staff member wears many hat
as a confusing, intimidating and stressful three-s. Staying on top of all this safety stuff requires us to become great jugglers, keeping all the balls in the air and smoothly balancing our time and resources among a variety of duties and competing projects. Yikes!
One project that often does not make it into our juggling act is developing a crisis management plan. Instead, we hang onto the hope that nothing will happen to us, and never give time to figuring what we must do in the event of a major crisis.
But I guarantee: At some point, all of us in the bus business are going to experience a major accident with serious injuries or fatalities- even if it is not our fault. When that happens, we will wish we had worked up a game plan.Winging it when the news media comes calling or when the event goes viral on social media just doesn’t cut it.
Those who have been through this tell us their experience was a confusing, intimidating and stressful three-ring circus. They tried to juggle questions about what, why, and how the accident happened. The pressure was on from the
media to supply detailed answers immediately. But in the end it was all about blame and shame.
Besides coordination with the authorities and insurance adjusters at the scene, a crisis plan will need to include steps such as retrieving luggage and personal effects; making travel arrangements for unaffected passengers, and determining what to do with the bus when it is released.
Back at the office, staff will be inundated gathering company, driver, vehicle, and maintenance records; fielding calls from passenger family members; preparing for the onslaught of media inquiries; as well as monitoring and responding to social media comments.
Especially do not overlook informing your staff about what has happened. They need to be in the know and they need to hear it first from their company leaders — and not from a friend or neighbor who saw something on the news.
Nailing down your company’s crisis plan in advance will include developing your process, your procedures, your training and your people assigned to carry it out.
If you feel slightly bewildered and overwhelmed by all this, join the club. Better yet, join BISC. We invite all operators, especially the smaller ones to join us and help in our continuing mission to raise the level of safety in the intercity bus and motorcoach industry through our collaborative efforts with government officials and industry professionals in a workshop and educational environment.
I hope to see you there at our next BISC meeting during ABA Marketplace in Cleveland, OH, January 14-17, where we’ll help you become an amazing juggler.