Let’s pretend you are a member of our Safety & Training Department. You’ve hired a class of new bus operators. They’ve completed their classroom and bus simulator training and are ready to get in a bus.
The training hours are 6:30 am until 3:30 pm. The east side of MTD’s Maintenance Facility, located at 803 East University Avenue in Urbana (pictured), is the lot you use to train employees on basic maneuvers as well as the advanced maneuvers for their Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) examination.
You may think that the east side lot is only used for your department’s needs. But it is not. The entrance for six servicing bays, plus the wash bay, is through your training lot. The north side of the lot is bus storage where six rows of vehicles exit. The center of your training lot is occupied by two fueling stations.
You may think that you’ll have that space to train these new employees for all eight of those hours. Unfortunately, you would be wrong again. Morning pull out involves over 75 buses leaving the Maintenance Facility between 5:30 and 7:22 am. Operators are walking across the lot continuously as they locate their assigned bus and do their pre-trip inspections. Maintenance employees are also busily providing any needed service to the soon-to-depart vehicles.
“So basically, we can’t use the east side for training before 7:22 am,” said Annette Goodrich, Assistant Safety & Training Director of Compliance.
That’s not that bad, you think. We’ll just get started at 7:30 am. Pump the brakes, rookie.
“At 8:45 am the buses that operated morning school transportation are coming back to base, so you’ve got to stay out of their way, too,” adds Goodrich. “Then there’s the afternoon pull out that starts at 1:50 pm.”
The afternoon pull out lasts for about an hour and involves buses leaving to execute afternoon school transportation. And then, before you know it, the day is over. You may be thinking, then let’s shift the training hours to a little later in the day.
I like your thinking, but no. Training buses are often recalled to base around 2:30 pm to fill school trip assignments and starting at 4:15 pm, buses operating fixed-route weekday daytime service begin returning to base to be fueled and cleaned. As weekday service wraps up, approximately 65 buses pull in between 4:15 and 8:00 pm. These buses need to be taken care of so they can be turned around for evening and late-night service.
Do you feel a bit frustrated? Limited in the training you can provide? Welcome to the Safety & Training Department. As you likely concluded, their maneuver training is constantly interrupted throughout the day. The Department has to limit their class sizes as a result of the current training lot to save resources. The fewer the trainees the more opportunities the individual has to practice. The trade-off, of course, is fewer graduated operators.
“After completing classroom training, our trainees spend two days on the lot only,” said Adam Shanks, Safety & Training Director. “Then we begin to phase in road training time. During the remaining two weeks of road training, a trainee is spending about half their time on the road and half their time on the lot. It is a state requirement that the trainee have at least 12 days of CDL training prior to testing for their CDL license.”
Our Training Team also has to constantly reset cones and exercises due to the shared needs of the lot and the lack of space. The maneuvers for the CDL examination include straight line backing, parallel parking, off-set backing, and 100-foot backing. These all take a considerable amount of space for a 40-foot vehicle to get in position and execute the maneuver.
“Currently we train and certify around 40 bus operators and maintenance employees a year,” Shanks said. “And we also put our resources towards training operators for our ADA Paratransit and rural transit services.”
Enter the CDL Training Center
MTD is starting a new lease on nearby land to move the Safety & Training Department’s work off our Maintenance Facility’s east lot. Mid-Illinois Development, LLC, a construction contractor, will begin leasing its property at 1207 East University Avenue in Urbana, just down the block, to MTD on April 1, 2016.
The CDL Training Center, as it will be called, will not be open for training for at least a year. Engineers will be brought in to design improvements for the space and contractors will be welcomed to bid on the resulting work. Currently, the 2.9 acres are mostly dirt and gravel. There is also a small office building, which will remain, and a fabrication shed, which will be demolished.
“The maneuvers we do are repetitive, we run them over and over, and they’re executed with some pretty heavy vehicles,” Shanks said. “We need concrete with a thickness of about 10 inches to stand up to this heavy use and adequately support our training needs.”
MTD may also have opportunities for revenue generation. Local entities like the Champaign and Urbana Fire Departments and Parkland College’s truck driver training program could also schedule time at the CDL Training Center.
Members of the Safety & Training Department are thrilled to see work begin on the CDL Training Center. The Department can look forward to many things increasing increased training class sizes.
“With the increased space and efficiency of the lot, we’ll also be able to schedule operator retraining more often,” said Shanks. “Not to mention all of this future training will take place in a safer environment with fewer distractions.”