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How to Use Bus Driver Training to Create a Culture of Safety & Compliance


Your bus or motorcoach company can reduce accidents and save money when you create a workplace culture focused on safety.

It’s vital for executives, managers, and employees to be aligned on safety goals. Safety starts at the top of the organization, where policies are set in place, responsibilities are made, and procedures are created, all of which have to trickle down the ladder in the workplace.

If you fail to create a safety culture, your business is likely to fail. Whether you like it or not, a culture will be created within your organization.

It’s up to you to take an active approach to shaping your culture to create a productive one, or else you might not like what it turns into. Just like a parent who ends up with a rude child because they never taught them to say “please” and “thank you,” you can end up with a company culture that cares more about saving time than preventing accidents.

Remember: it’s up to you to create a safety-centric culture.

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Why Does Safety Culture Matter?

In the bussing industry, and most industries, it’s common for herd mentality to decide what the culture of the workplace is. Your new hires will look to the veterans on how to behave, what to do, what to care about, and what to ignore. They’ll show them “the way things are done around here.”

“The way things are done around here” could be never cutting corners on safety, never rushing to make a stop on time, never skipping a pre-trip inspection, and always cleaning up your workplace to help prevent workplace industries.

Or, “The way things are done around here” could be skipping steps in a pre-trip inspection to save time, ignoring issues around the yard, and putting time and effort above safety. If this is your culture, the education and training you put in for new employees will be less effective.  Worse yet, when your employees start to disregard safety, your risk of a million-dollar accident goes way up.

Your incentive for creating a safety culture is much greater than any other transportation company out there. Your operators are sent out carrying hundreds of passengers a day. That means if an accident happens, you face a much greater risk of lawsuits from injuries.  If you invest the time, money, and resources into creating a safety-centric culture, you can enjoy:

  • Fewer accidents & injuries
  • Lower cost of loss
  • Increased driver performance 
  • A more engaged and productive workforce

If you create a culture of safety, you ensure that the core value your business operates on is safety. You can make “the way we do things around here” something positive and productive.

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3 Ways to Build a Strong Culture of Safety

Building a safety culture isn’t as easy as saying “Hey team, we need to be safer around here” with a stern face and high hopes. There are clear steps you need to make as a leader to ensure everyone is meeting your expectations. This all starts with you and other leaders. If the company leaders are able to practice what they preach, a strong safety culture will fall into place.

With that in mind, we’re going to dive into three ways a bussing company’s leadership can develop a safety culture:

  • Policies
  • Data
  • Training programs

1. Policies

Senior management must implement policies that set clear expectations of what is and is not acceptable behavior. You also need to have upfront consequences for when the policies are broken. 

On their own, policies don’t influence people to behave in safe, productive ways, but they’re the cornerstone of your culture.

Here are four safety policies every bussing company should implement.

  1. Seat belt policy - It's the law that bus operators must wear their seat belts while they drive. Not only that, it drastically reduces injuries and fatal accidents. You need to implement a company policy that says each operator must wear his or her seat belt at all times when in the driver's seat. To enforce this, you can have a manager standing by the gate doing a seat belt check as operators leave the yard.
  2. MVR review policy - Reviewing MVRs for both new and existing drivers on a periodical basis (we recommend twice a year at least) allows you to reward those who are performing safely and get proactive with those who are not. You’ll be able to identify and mitigate risk before anything serious happens.
  3. Process for reviewing violations and accidents - If you’re not taking into account all occurring accidents, which you should be doing by law, you’re missing an opportunity to prevent future accidents. If one operator continuously is causing accidents and not following protocol, your records are what enable you to give proper consequences. Not only that, but reviewing these accidents allows you to create and implement stronger training in the areas where violations are common. 
  4. Formalization, official identification, and communication of ALL safety rules - If a rule isn’t clear to all of the team, it will not be followed. Having each policy stated throughout the yard and on pre-shift safety sheets ensures operators and leaders always know exactly what’s expected. Not only will this cut down on accidents and costs in the long run, but it allows you to avoid the painfully common “I didn’t know I had to do that” excuse.

There’s one more thing that’s important to point out about policies. When there are only negative consequences for breaking policies and no rewards for following them, you might have a harder time enforcing them.

Think of it this way: on your daily commute to work you probably go 5, 10, or sometimes 15 over the speed limit. It isn’t acceptable by law, and the consequences of speeding are still prevalent. However, you’re willing to bet you won’t pass a police officer or won’t get caught. The risk of punishment is outweighed by the reward of breaking the rule (or policy).

It works the same way with your operators. Your operators might be willing to roll the dice because they don’t think they’ll get caught, but they’re more willing to do the right thing if there’s a reward, such as accident-free mileage bonuses or even just a thank-you from upper management.

Don’t just operate on punishments and fear. You also need rewards. 

2. Data

Collecting data is crucial in maintaining a safety culture. You can tell your team to follow policies and complete tasks, but without tracking data, there’s no way to determine if your methods are working. There are two big components to collecting data: tracking and analyzing. We suggest implementing these into your safety program to solidify your safety culture.

Tracking Your Data

You need to track all accidents, traffic violations, and traffic convictions. There are plenty of great options for event video recorders or similar telematics that make this easy.

You need to track:

  • The different types of accidents/injuries and their frequency
  • What led up to or caused those accidents and injuries
  • Which operators are having/causing the most accidents and injuries

You can also track data based on regions, vehicle types, etc.

Analyze Your Data

As you collect your data, it’s crucial that you analyze it for trends such as:

  • Your most common and costly accidents
  • Situational demands that create unnecessary risk
  • Unsafe operators

By analyzing this data, you can make informed decisions on what topics you cover in training, when you conduct training, who needs remedial training, and who you keep and who you let go.

3. Training Programs 

Training is the backbone of creating a safety-centric culture. You need to train your operators on how to reduce risk, prevent accidents, and save lives.

Upon onboarding, a proper training program can instruct new operators on the “ways of the road” and policies they are expected to follow under your company. For current employees, an effective training program allows them to enhance their job performance and prevent future accidents from happening. 

Types of Effective Training

There are many different types of training that can support a safety culture. Finding what is right for your company is important. We recommend incorporating some form of each of the following categories to create a well-rounded safety program:

  • Defensive driving: You can believe your drivers are good drivers, but if they don’t practice defensive driving, an accident is bound to happen. They must be able to avoid the mistakes of other careless drivers on the road, to ensure their passengers are safe and lawsuits are avoided. 
  • Compliance training: Having compliance from operators starts with teaching them the regulations and policies they must follow on a day-to-day basis. This can be accomplished with online courses and safety meetings. However, safety and compliance are NOT the same thing. Compliance is about following rules. A safety program is about changing behaviors to reduce risk and prevent accidents.
  • Accident Procedures: It’s your responsibility to make sure your operators know what is expected of them if an accident were to occur. Since they are carrying passengers, they must ensure everyone is calm and okay, while dealing with the accident as well. A proper training program must go in-depth with the expected duties they must perform. 
  • Fatigue and wellness: Knowing the difference between fatigue and being too tired from the day before is a big difference when operating a bus. If your drivers are knowingly leaving the yard in poor health or experiencing fatigue, they are putting lives and your wallet in danger.
  • Extreme weather driving: It is common knowledge that weather conditions will not always be perfect. The bussing industry doesn’t halt driving if conditions are not the best, because people still rely on those buses to take them where they need to go. Having operators who know how to work through bad weather is vital to preventing accidents and promoting safety. 

It’s worth mentioning that we have an online training program that covers all of the topics: The Bus Safety Course. You can try lessons from The Bus Safety Course for free by following this link.

How to Create Effective Training

Training can come in many different forms depending on your personal circumstances. Once again, we recommend you use a combination of the following:

  • Onsite training: Onsite training is important to perform throughout the year with both old and new operators. You can cement expectations that are specific to your operator with onsite training. We suggest doing this quarterly as an opportunity to distribute safety reminders.
  • Online training: Online training allows you to give your operators a new perspective on safety that they can do on the go (we recommend paying them for online training). These programs can include all the procedures, expectations, and behaviors they are expected to use within a simple online course. Once again, we recommend you check out The Bus Safety Course to meet these needs.
  • Behind-the-wheel training: Think of a 15-year-old learning to drive. They need to have adequate behind-the-wheel training with an experienced driver to truly learn the rules of the road. It works the same way with your operators - they must have strong behind-the-wheel training to ensure they are operating safely. 

Putting It All Together

Safety Culture is the foundation of a strong company. If you don’t build a solid foundation now, over time it will slowly crumble. Investing in a safety-centric culture allows you to avoid accidents, have more dependable workers, and have a powerful operation. Avoid business-threatening mistakes and make safety your top priority and #1 shared value. 

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