Well, arrangements have been made for me to shadow an Accessible Services Bus Operator. This employer operates in a rural setting with a clientele base that is distributed over a very large region and road network.
I'm supposed to meet Danny, the Bus Operator I am being handed off to, at the dispatch centre; 07:30 sharp. As I arrive at the centre, the bus parking area is coming alive with Operators doing their pre operations vehicle checks and an array of final preparations before starting out for the day. It isn't difficult to find my way over to the Dispatch.
"Good morning. My name is Kim and I am supposed to accompany Danny on his work day."
"Oh? Really? Tell me a little more about that will you Kim?"
"Yes. I'm trying to find whether the occupation of Professional Bus Operator is one that I want to pursue. I have been able to shadow Bus Operators in other sectors and have been handed off to Danny today so I can better familiarize myself with Accessible Services."
"Well, Danny is not operating a Special Services bus any longer. He was promoted, effective yesterday, to the Training Department. He starts at 08:00 but if you go through that door and talk to the office staff they will show you to a seat and you can wait there for Danny. I doubt he will take you out in a vehicle though because there is a company policy that prohibits that. But you can work all that out with him."
"Okay. Sure. Thanks for the help then. Bye for now."
"So long Kim."
Sure enough, after a few minutes in a visitor's chair, Danny enters the room and introduces himself. And no, we won't be shadowing today but he has offered to give me an hour of discussion and Q & A; he says "It will be like a low pressured introduction into classroom teaching. Let's go into the classroom, the current class in on the road today, and begin by talking about route planning."
During my discussion with Danny, I learn that Operators drive different routes each day so do not use a pre-printed paddle. Instead they are given a daily trip sheet that will include a list of pick-ups, addresses and times. The sheet may also include information about road closures, construction zones, etc. All this information may also be entered into a mobile data terminal (MDT).
"So, are you saying that each Bus Operator organizes their own route to the designated addresses and assures all pick-ups are done at the designated times?"
"That's one good reason for reading the road construction, detour, and weather condition notices every day."
Operators have to plan their own route to ensure door-to-door service that meets the timelines. They need to know the local area well and be good map readers. Bus Operators may also need to evaluate accessibility to distant pick-up points e.g. remote locations and rural lanes. This can be done by a "call ahead" to the passenger on a mobile phone where service permits.
"What about passengers that can't use a phone?"
"This would be covered off by the passenger's Attendant."
Maps of County highways and gravelled township roads present their own challenges to effective planning. For example, on some occasions GPS sets may be called for. Additionally, the Bus Operator must be able to sequence picking up passengers effectively, considering passengers' commitments to scheduled priority appointments. To do this, the Bus Operator may also need to decipher an array of computer codes and abbreviations while using any number of electronic communication devices.
"It sounds like you really need to get to know each passenger's individual needs."
"Yes. Operators do develop a very special relationship with each passenger. At the same time, all Human Rights legislation needs to be priority one."
Once the route has been planned, and the scheduled pick-ups are underway,
particularly in a rural setting, the Bus Operator must constantly monitor for changing road conditions, road closures, and foul weather development. Needless to say, the ability to effectively plan ahead is of utmost importance; however, the ability to adapt to new situations and make quick decisions is invaluable to the Accessible Services Bus Operator.