As passengers, when we get on a bus, we are aware that we entrust our comfort, safety, and punctuality to the bus driver. Drivers play a crucial role in the efficiency and safety of bus operations. At the end of the day, drivers are the tip of the iceberg and our point of contact as customers with an organization that hides a complex operational mechanism that remains transparent to us. Furthermore, drivers must oversee several crucial tasks in addition to driving: knowing the vehicle and anticipating and assisting in managing any mechanical issues, handling fare collection, addressing passenger inquiries, communicating with the operations center, etc. Therefore, it is essential that drivers are well-trained, motivated, and strongly supported by the transport operator.
To what extent is the role of drivers relevant in a transport operator? We could affirm that their relevance is 100% because EVERYTHING is affected by the driver. From the time on the route to energy consumption savings, as well as the vehicle’s condition and maintenance, and the safety of passengers and other road users.
For example, we might have perfect time management on the planned routes, and we could implement the best eco-driving solution available, but if the driver is not motivated, he or she could arrive late at different stops or be inefficient in his/her driving. Will implementing a couple of tools solve the problem? Our answer is «no»; the driver factor is necessary at all times.
In this article, we will explore the essential needs of this fundamental piece, the driver, and how the operator could address them to achieve the maximum potential in driver engagement and operations performance.
Throughout Bledsystem’s more than 10 years of uninterrupted trajectory, reducing energy consumption and increasing safety in public transportation fleets, we have identified 8 main needs of drivers:
- Learn to manage the time on the route.
- Feel valued, motivated, and involved.
- Have tools to manage stress.
- Possess emotional skills to handle conflicts.
- Receive technical training and support tools for vehicle handling.
- Receive periodic training supported by the adequate tools in efficient and defensive driving.
- Maintain good communication with their supervisors.
- Receive positive reinforcement and constructive solutions.
LEARN TO MANAGE THE TIME ON THE ROUTE
It is essential for the driver to know the required timings for each route. Therefore, it is important to provide them with detailed route planning, including estimated arrival times and relevant stops along the way. This information allows them to have an overall view of the route and plan their time more effectively.
Additionally, providing drivers with a real-time tracking system is highly beneficial. This allows them to monitor the route during driving, identifying possible delays or advancements, and taking appropriate corrective actions. Nowadays, all operators have real-time tracking systems or AVMs, but do their drivers have proper access to them?
Other solutions, which we will explore later (such as efficient driving platforms), can also be useful for improving their time management.
FEEL VALUED AND INVOLVED
Everyone likes to feel valued in their work and to participate in areas that affect them. Drivers must feel valued and involved in various aspects related to driving.
Therefore, it is important to recognize and appreciate the drivers’ work and efforts regularly, and make this recognition public. In fact, several leading operators already do this, conducting regular award ceremonies or special mentions for their drivers, which they communicate openly to the public.
It is also recommended to establish incentive programs and enable open and two-way communication channels between drivers and their supervisors, as well as continuous training. All of this helps drivers see their importance (which they truly are) in daily operations.
HAVE TOOLS TO MANAGE STRESS
Stress while driving can have various negative effects on both drivers and road safety. Some consequences include reduced attention and concentration, increased fatigue, a higher likelihood of making mistakes, or significant physical and mental health deterioration.
To avoid this, it is vital to schedule adequate rest periods and provide drivers with stress management techniques. Therefore, it is necessary to evaluate and address the stress factors related to their work through periodic assessments of drivers. This may include reviewing working conditions, workload, schedules, or any other area that may contribute to work-related stress, especially while driving.
By implementing these measures, a bus operator can help reduce drivers’ stress, promote a healthier environment, improve their quality of life, which in turn leads to better performance, job satisfaction, and ultimately, greater safety and service quality.
POSSESS EMOTIONAL SKILLS TO HANDLE CONFLICTS
We can agree that a driver’s role goes beyond simply driving. They also have to deal with passengers onboard the bus, and sometimes this can lead to conflicts related to payment issues, seat disputes, inappropriate behavior, complaints, etc.
These conflicts can create tensions on board, and drivers must possess certain skills to manage them effectively, as they can potentially become a risk to road safety.
Therefore, it is essential for the operator to provide drivers with tools and training for conflict management. This may include helpful guidelines or specific protocols to handle different problematic situations.
It is also advisable to periodically track these incidents and maintain good communication with drivers to update guidelines and protocols since they are the ones dealing with these conflicts daily.
Lastly, internal conflicts, such as those involving colleagues, company policies or procedures, or related to schedules, should also be considered and addressed with appropriate means.
RECEIVE TECHNICAL TRAINING AND SUPPORT TOOLS FOR VEHICLE HANDLING
It is crucial for the operator to provide ongoing and up-to-date training for drivers to address issues stemming from insufficient technical knowledge in vehicle handling (specially important with new Electrical Vehicles -EV- or latest advancements on ICE vehicles).
Proper technical training and support tools will help drivers improve their vehicle knowledge, maintain safety standards, address minor issues promptly, and use onboard technology efficiently. Like in other measures, this will contribute to a higher service quality, passenger satisfaction, and ultimately, safer driving.
GET PERIODIC TRAINING REINFORCEMENT AND TOOLS IN EFFICIENT DRIVING
The lack of knowledge in efficient and defensive driving can cause dissatisfaction among drivers due to hindered professional development and a loss of efficiency or confidence in their driving.
Furthermore, it also presents problems for the operator, as this lack of training results in higher energy consumption, increased vehicle maintenance and safety risks, higher costs derived from the above, and a greater negative impact on the environment.
For all these reasons, it is crucial not only to provide initial training in efficient driving but also to have training programs and tools that include a personalized action plan adapted for each driver. This will increase their confidence, enhance energy savings, reduce costs, and decrease maintenance actions on vehicles, ultimately resulting in greater vehicle availability and higher satisfaction for drivers and passengers.
MAINTAIN GOOD COMMUNICATION WITH SUPERVISORS
Poor communication with drivers can lead them to disconnect from the company’s culture and values, resulting in a loss of motivation. Additionally, it may lead to potential increases in stress and difficulties in resolving possible problems that may arise.
As seen, communication is a cross-cutting pillar that is relevant at all levels, not only in a bus operator but in any organization in general.
The solution lies in establishing clear communication channels, promoting such communication to be bidirectional, so that supervisors can actively listen to the drivers and provide regular and constructive feedback.
Furthermore, actions that foster teamwork and collaboration can be implemented, as well as different tools to communicate news or relevant information about the service to drivers in a friendly and straightforward manner.
With this, the operator will achieve greater operational efficiency, resulting in a better work environment and an improved service to passengers.
GET POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT AND CONSTRUCTIVE SOLUTIONS
This is perhaps the most relevant aspect, not only for its intrinsic importance but because it is often overlooked.
Drivers, like any individuals, sometimes perform exceptionally well, while at other times they may make mistakes or have below-average performance.
In both cases, the operator must have effective methodologies and tools that motivate and propose constructive solutions to the drivers.
If a driver is highly efficient, let’s not let it go unnoticed: reward them, acknowledge their efforts, and express gratitude.
If a driver is not very efficient, let’s not constantly highlight their mistakes: provide recommendations for improvement, present other drivers as examples for learning and reaching their full potential in driving, and provide training.
At Bledsystem, we have extensive experience in this field and have seen how drivers whose driving was initially inefficient have improved their performance significantly, enhancing their driving, service times, and overall happiness with their job on the long term.
A groundbreaking and effective proposal to improve this internally could be the implementation of driver leagues, where performance in driving is measured fairly based on the context, and the best drivers are rewarded with prizes, occasional salary increases, or simply -but always satisfactory- public recognition.
At Bledsystem, we have observed how these gamification actions contribute to improving operational efficiency, driver happiness, and overall work quality.
In conclusion, we have seen that the role of drivers in a bus operator is crucial for operational efficiency and safety, and they have vital needs for their job performance and personal satisfaction.
By addressing these needs, drivers will be happier, more motivated, and more satisfied with their work. At the same time, bus operators can optimize their performance, improve service, and increase driver and passenger satisfaction.
Ultimately, investing in the development and well-being of drivers is essential for overall success in operations and the creation of a positive culture within the company.