An Operator Instructor
You want to become an operator instructor for large buses, trucks or tractor trailers. How do you do that? What are the things you need to know? Are there special characteristics required?
Instructor Requirements : (Quick List)
* Be able to drive the vehicle being instructed on as good as or better than any other driver in the fleet.
* Know the territory off by heart in detail where you will be taking student drivers.
* Know all applicable rules and regulations for that type of vehicle, including destinations, routes and provincial rules and regulations.
* Be able to take over the vehicle in an emergency and correct any situation that a student driver may have gotten into.
* Be able to demonstrate all techniques and procedures that pertain to the type of vehicle being taught.
* Be able to coach student drivers effectively without showing anger or excited personal emotions.
* Not show any emotion during student drivers mistakes, close calls, or inappropiate actions.
* Stay awake, no matter how boring or routine the job seems to be.
* Answer any questions asked by students about the vehicle and its operation.
* Give a thorough easy to understand explanation of the details and characteristis of each vehicle driven
The Instructor Sets The Example
The instructor must set the example, all the time, at work, on their own time, everytime. This includes driving habits, when driving company vehicles while training and while doing other duties. This also includes driving your own personal vehicle when going to and from work, while shopping, all the time. It doesn't take students long to figure out what kind of vehicle the instructor drives, and you will be watched by them whenever they get the chance and so will all the other company employees.
You must set other examples, such as dress and deportment and professionalism in the work place.
The phrase "Walk The Talk" has never applied any more stronger than in the realm of operator training.
Instructor Drivers Licence
When you become an operator instructor, your drivers licence becomes a pretty important document, much more important to you than a lot of other occupations. (An instructor will pass this information on to their students as well.)
Lose your licence and your job is at stake. You cannot train drivers if you do not have a licence yourself.
So you have to watch your own driving both on and off the job. No speeding or other infractions that could lead to a loss of excessive points. Most certainly no impaired driving charges, which could bring your career to a certain end.
In a lot of areas the Motor Vehicle Department requires you submit a driver's abstract each year to keep your instructors qualification valid.
Special Operator Instructor Characteristics
- You must not have any nerves, or at least not show that you have. Student drivers are going to do things incorrectly and make mistakes. They will likely have close calls or even scary situations. The instructor cannot show any nervous emotion or anger during these trying times.
- You must know the exact details of each and every vehicle you train on. This includes all its characteristis for comfort, how it works and how it operates under all conditions. You must be able to demonstrate a thorough pre-trip inspection. It is impossible to train others or answer student questions if you have not done it yourself.
- Presentation skills - operator training isn't just on the road. Much classroom activity is involved, and numerous topics abound. You must be able to present these topics in a clear understandable manner.
- Knowledge of mechanical components - For example air brakes is part of large vehicle training. A student operator needs to know exactly what is going on when he/she presses on the brake pedal. Or in the case of specialized buses, and operator would need to know the operation of a wheelchair ramp in detail.
- Electronics and Technology - Many vehicles are controlled by on board computers and have lots of specialized programmable controls and LED indicators. Most company vehicles have on board computer systems that the operator has to log on to. These systems are used for communications, tracking and control. These systems have to be taught accurately.
- Electronics and Technology #2 - Classroom activities today are done with computers, presentation projectors and other electronic devices. You need to understand software such as PowerPoint, and be able to compose, edit, proof read and present these programs. An in depth electronics/computer knowledge is an advantage, because if a system suddenly stops working, there may not be time to wait for repair personnel to arrive. You have to fix it yourself.
- Road Training - a step by step process and you need to know how to climb the stairs and get others to climb the stairs. It is pretty obvious you need to know all the traffic rules and regulations for your area in detail, as well as vehicle characteristics.
- Inertia & Weight Transfer - very important to understand when operating large vehicles. Braking, steering and acceleration rely heavily on these items and you need to be able to relate to them through the vehicle.
Throughout my years as trainer, I often heard and got involved in discussions as to whether an Insturctor or Trainer is a supervisor. In fact, at one time many years ago I had to defend a pay scale adjustment because some officials said instructors don't supervise anyone.
Let me tell you without reservation they do! When you are doing classroom training of any kind, you are supervising the group. Don't think so? If anything goes wrong, or the unusual happens and something gets lost or damaged, who do they go after?
If you do road training with more than one student at a time, your supervisory skills are tested to the limit. I won't list the responsibilities here, but if I did they would fill more than this screen. So an instructor is a supervisor without a doubt, in vehicle training.
Should Instructor / Trainers Supervise Other Employees Out On The Road
Lets look at this one more carefully. Your company may have road supervisors or other operations staff that directly look after operators on the job out on the road. However, if you see an employee doing something totally wrong and unsafe are you going to say something?
Example: Buses must stop at railway tracks. With your training bus and students, you are stopped at the tracks, but another of your company's buses with passsengers on board does not stop and barely slows down. Are you going to let it go? Or are you at that moment a road supervisor that has a duty to do?
Consider other road users who observe this scenario. If they decide to call in a complaint, they will say a training bus was present and saw them. The passengers on the bus will likely say the same thing.
More importantly, you as a training person are responsible for safety, training and represent a standard for your company. Of course you will do something. Consider the options in the next section for methods.
Consider one more thing. If a complaint is generated or an operational supervisor files a report against them, and disciplinary action is contemplated, refresher training is often part of the procedure. Who gets to see them then? Who has to finalize the corrective refresher training? It is very probable you will be involved anyway.
Correcting Faulty Driving Errors For Operators Not On A Course
Keeping the above in mind, you have some options to correct a faulty driving behavour that you observed out on the road. Naturally you must always follow your company's policies and procedures at all times.
Here are some methods: (Each would be adjusted to suit the seriousness of the situation.)
- Arrange to talk to the individual back at the depot. During the conversation point out the implications, and why this is not tolerated within your organization.
- Contact operations by telephone, state the situation that happened, and that you would like to make arrangements when you get back to meet with the employee as soon as is reasonable.
- Report the occurance to operations by phone and in writing, indicating the situation needs to be looked at by a supervisor.
- In severe cases where a huge safety risk has occurred, you may wish to call immediately on your cell phone to operations, dispatch or control staff, state how severe the safety infraction was, and suggest strongly that a supervisor needs to address the driving error ASAP.
In all cases it is good procedure to keep a record on file in case additional events add up or it occurs again. If your training department does not keep such files, then a copy to the personnel file would be reasonable. Don't forget to offer the driver their copy as well.
A training person has a close working relationship with many other divisions of a large or small company. In particular, safety and training are in constant contact with each other, and in some areas may even be the same department.
Being an operator instructor can be a very stressful job that will drag you down if you let it.
On the other hand it can be one of the most rewarding jobs on the planet.
You see results of your accomplishments on the road day after day.