Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Coach Operator Training: Inspiring Confidence

Imagine sliding behind the wheel of a 42,500 pound vehicle, buckling up, and turning the key. Would you be excited? Nervous? Terrified? All of our Coach Operator trainees have been there, and no matter how anxious they may have felt, within just a few weeks they look back fondly on those first-day jitters. What does it take to drive such a huge vehicle without sweaty palms and a racing heart? It takes confidence, the kind of confidence that comes from feeling fully prepared for anything that crosses your path.

Our ten-week Coach Operator training program is designed to empower our employees to take on challenges that build confidence from day one. Training begins in the classroom, focusing on a team environment. We understand that not everyone learns the same way. Our training staff utilize adult learning theories that ensure that all learning styles are met so that each employee feels completely ready to move from one phase of training to the next.

The first eight weeks of training start with basic skill mastery. Trainees move from classroom demonstrations to learning how to maneuver the bus around cones in the bus yard. Skills include everything from learning how to turn the bus to backing up an articulated coach. These skills and drills create confidence and build muscle memory about driving. Trainees have an opportunity to drive every piece of equipment we operate. That scary bus becomes much less scary after just a few days behind the wheel. We define our success by how successful our trainees are, so we encourage a team environment where employees celebrate each other's achievements.

We understand that test taking isn't easy for anyone. We are sensitive to test anxiety and create a program that eliminates that anxiety. There are pop quizzes throughout training to help employees get used to test taking. Formal testing doesn't take place until there's a lot of informal testing, so trainees are comfortable with the format. There is a midterm that focuses on basic skill and traffic control, and a final that covers all of the material including our routes.

To prepare for the CDL exam, trainees are given multiple opportunities to practice simulating driving without instruction. Trainees will have all of the technical understanding needed to pass the CDL "skills tests" which include pre-trip inspection, basic controls, and road test. We pay for this portion of the test, schedule the test, and provide a vehicle for testing purposes.

After becoming proficient at basic skills, around four weeks into the program, trainees take the CDL exam! Once the CDL test is complete, training moves onto driver skill mastery, including learning our transit technology, every type of coach in our fleet, and special areas like University of Washington and downtown Seattle. Trainees drive with groups into neighborhoods across Snohomish County. They receive personalized attention and mentoring from our instructor staff. Trainees learn how to take route notes - about landmarks, the difficulty of certain turns, lighting effects, and where bus zones are located. They not only learn every route, they also learn about fares, how to take lunch, where to use the bathroom, and how to help our customers.

Trainees then have two weeks to operate a vehicle "in-service." With another Coach Operator aboard to assist, trainees will apply everything they've learned, picking up passengers, securing mobility devices, and providing the excellent customer service for which Community Transit is known. These two weeks are an opportunity for trainees to be successful and really shine.

Coach Operator trainees earn while they learn. Paid training starts at $19.75/hr plus great benefits for the whole family (medical, dental, vision, life insurance). Trainees also have access to our wellness program and workout facilities. Upon graduation, pay increases to $23.23/hr and additional benefits include a retirement pension, paid time off, and disability insurance coverage.

We value our employees and want them to be successful. Our Coach Operators are the face of our agency, and play a critical role in our community. The bonding that happens in training classes shapes how our Coach Operators feel once they graduate and take to the road on their own. They feel proud to be part of our ranks and our community. And we are proud to welcome them to the Community Transit family.

Do you want to work where you are valued, and where you make a difference in your community? Apply today for our next training class!