SunTran Enhances Driver Training Program with Safety Leadership Course
About: The City of St. George, Utah, located in the northernmost part of the Mojave Desert, has a population of more than 80,000 and was named the fastest growing metro area in the U.S. in 2018. The city’s local public transit system, SunTran, operates six fixed-routes with over 140 bus stops serving the St. George metro area.
What problems, issues, or needs led you to engage Transit and Paratransit Company (TAPTCO)?
We run a relatively small operation, providing approximately 450,000 rides last year, but we expect to triple that number in the next 12 months. Safety is our first priority, but we did not have the time or experience to develop a training program in-house. We needed a professional program that would provide uniform and consistent training which would help keep our passengers and drivers safe.
What made you choose TAPTCO? What made their services stand out from others?
Evaluating and upgrading the SunTran driver training program was one of my first priorities when I took this job nearly six years ago. We had a homegrown program that was administered by a variety of operators on a monthly basis. Without a dedicated trainer, the program lacked consistency. I was introduced to TAPTCO at a transit expo and, after comparing their program with others, I was impressed with the breadth of subjects they covered in their materials. TAPTCO’s approach is well-aligned with our current standards and procedures, and the program is very easy to use.
What have the implementation phase and ongoing relationship been like?
Because the program is so easy to use, implementing it was also easy. We wanted to make sure that all the critical courses were presented in the first six months. TAPTCO courses are so easy to administer that I could turn to any supervisor or senior operator and ask if he or she would like to teach the next class. The videos and program content ensure that they are all teaching the same thing, while giving them the opportunity to augment that content with their own driving experience. The principles covered in TAPTCO’s program are completely universal. I had expected to see some challenges because of differences in regulations from area to area, but there were none. Even when we stop and talk about local rules, in almost every case, those rules are already emphasized in the TAPTCO materials. The content is relevant across the board and the support we got from TAPTCO is excellent.
How is TAPTCO aligned with the values that drive your business?
Our primary focus is on safety and customer service. Having TAPTCO training in place has made our operation safer, less costly and more customer-focused. It has become a core component of our operation that has created consistency between operators. Safety and customer service go hand-in- hand. Passengers notice when all operators drive the same way. Thanks to TAPTCO training, our bus operators are more consistent in waiting for all customers to be seated before proceeding, pulling away, taking corners smoother, and always being on the lookout for pedestrians.
How is TAPTCO to work with?
The TAPTCO team has always been responsive. They always get right back to me. I’ve had nothing but excellent service from them.
What have been the greatest benefits of working with TAPTCO?
The best thing about TAPTCO’s program is ease of use. TAPTCO materials are perfect for any size transit agency. We love the continuity between TAPTCO’s various courses. The principles taught in one course are built upon in the next and reinforced in each course mastery test.
Can you share specifically how TAPTCO helped you reach your goals?
Our goal is to improve our safety culture, so we have made attendance and mastery of TAPTCO programs a requirement for advancement. Recently, we had our entire leadership team complete the Safety Leadership Course and pass the course mastery test. We’re now in the process of running all our senior transit operators, who we call Transit Operator III, through the Safety Leadership Course as a prerequisite for applying for Transit Operator IV positions, which are our in-house trainers and leaders. Requiring this training for operator and leadership advancement has focused everyone on continuous improvement and has developed a culture of learning. We have seen a wonderful improvement in everyone’s understanding of and adherence to safety principles. By tying their attendance and testing to promotion we see that those who want to stay with the organization are more diligent about getting to the mandatory monthly safety meetings. In the past, this was not always the case.
How has working with TAPTCO made your job/work life easier?
TAPTCO has helped us create a culture of safety in which everyone is focused on the same thing and that definitely has made my life easier. I am no longer uncomfortable that operators have questions or concerns about guidelines and best practices. We love the fact that TAPTCO has such an expansive library of courses. We offer eight to ten of them each year as refreshers for veteran operators and to introduce our newest employees to the standards that guide the rest of the organization. And because the videos and instruction materials are so easy to follow, everyone gets the opportunity to lead, train and grow.
What surprised you or pleased you the most about working with TAPTCO?
We were pleasantly surprised at how perfectly the TAPTCO courses aligned with the standards and values that we have and want to reinforce. They are always adding new materials, while keeping their core curriculum up-to-date. Any transit or paratransit organization that needs a training program to help the organization be consistent with national standards will find that TAPTCO is a great choice.
Would you recommend TAPTCO to others? What positive benefits would you emphasize?
I certainly have and will continue to recommend TAPTCO to others. Having a training program that helps us stay consistent with industry standards has been a huge benefit.