First Day Driving
Driver Training or Operator Training is a step by step procedure, whether on a car or a large vehicle. This is what makes driver training safe and consistent.
Each instructor will develop their own particular style for getting the students started. These suggestions are offered with some things to consider to make the instructor's job easier, and as a way to build your own series of steps for getting the job started.
For the first day, and maybe several days depending on the experience and success of your students, you will select an area that is relatively safe with minimal hazards, yet provides some challenges to manoeuver the large vehicle through.
Starting Out - The First To Drive
If you take more than one person out on the road at a time such as in bus training, you often end up with students with a variety of driving backgrounds. One person may have tractor trailer experience, another cube van experience, and often only car driving experience.
We will use transit bus operator training as an example to get started. Here is my suggested methods that you can modify to develop your own routine.
- First give an overall description of the vehicle you are starting out on, its features, characteristics and anything else needed, such as logging in on a radio or computer.
- Assist your group with doing a thorough pre-trip inspection. This will be a little longer than usual as you explain all the details, giving a few tips as you go. Don't forget to show and explain the emergency windows and procedure.
- Before driving - this is where you explain some differences from driving other types of vehicles. For example, the difference in techniques from hydraulic brakes vs air brakes. The fact a bus has a back door brake and so on.
- Demo drive - this is where the instructor drives the bus over a short course. Explain verbally as you drive what you are looking for and your procedures as you do it. This is a good time to demonstrate the difference between braking like you do in a car, and braking smoothly with air brakes by letting up slightly on the pedal as you stop. During the demo drive you can ask your students to hang on and at a moderate speed demonstrate the back door brake effect if you mess with the door handle while moving.
- Next you will want to select a driving order for your students, a rotation that will be followed for most of the course.
First Student To Drive
The person with the least experience should drive first. So pick the person that has only driven a car.
If you pick someone that has already driven a truck or bus, they will already have judgement as to the size and requirements for driving it. Therefore they will have a tendency to drive faster than they should. If they have bad habits from previous experience, the inexperienced person will see their way of doing things and figure they are doing it right, and will try to mimic their actions.
It usually works out that the inexperienced person will follow the instructor's directions very closely, and gives you the opportunity to point out correct procedures and safety concerns as you progress.
If an experienced person in your group has any bad habits, and they are aware of them, they are likely to hear your instructions and follow that advice. This in effect sometimes makes your job easier. Of course if they do make errors when it is their turn to drive, and are corrected, both they and the inexperienced student know that both can learn from your driving course.
Note: Should you have a person in your group with previous experience who is excellent and does most driving tasks almost perfectly, you may need to talk to them privately. Give praise for doing so well, and you may have to ask them to drive a little slower than they are used to for the first couple days using extra emphasis on caution. You will know they are exercising proper judgement and control, but newer operators starting out will not realize that and may try to follow the lead too soon resulting in careless or even dangerous manoeuvers.
After selecting the first student to drive, set up a procedure to follow such as those listed here.
- Let the student sit in the driver's seat and get accustomed to all the controls and switch locations.
- Adjust the seat. (Point out to always adjust the seat first, then mirrors. Otherwise the seat has to be adjusted again.)
- Seat should be adjusted so feet are flat on the pedals. (Driving with just the tip of the toe on the pedals results in very jerky driving.)
- Adjust all mirrors. (On a bus, pay particular attention to the right mirror adjustment, where it needs to be looking low where the right rear wheel is rolling.) Adjust standard mirror first, then convex if your vehicle has both.
- When ready to roll, establish a set procedure for taking off and stopping.
- Once under way, make many frequent starts and stops. The instructor will coach and watch that they are checking their mirrors each time they slow or stop.
- For the first time, each new driver should drive for 15-20 min per session. This will be increased later on to 45min to 1:30. Having short driving sessions in the beginning is an advantage because each person gets to adjust seat and mirrors multiple times. They will get their own procedure in place much more quickly this way.
- Both students and instructor will likely find the day goes by very quickly.
(To Be Continued)