Making the transition from a public school transportation system to a Head Start operation offered some exciting challenges in the area of behind-the-wheel driver training. That's because some Head Start operators require minimal training and documentation. I had been training and licensing drivers for the state of Oregon for 17 years and was used to the exacting training standards. Taking on the responsibility of transportation supervisor for a Head Start operation, I decided to use some of the training methods and documentation from my operational experience to provide the basis for new driver training. The most important training documentation tool that I have adopted from my Oregon school bus driver training experience is the New Driver Training Performance Checklist, which is a step-by-step road map for behind-the-wheel training. Using the progressive method
It starts with vehicle familiarization and progresses to basic vehicle operations, advanced vehicle operations and heavy traffic and freeway operations. The performance checklist ensures that every trainee receives complete and uniform training regardless of his or her driving experience. An employee from another driving field, such as a commercial truck driver, needs the same training approach as a trainee without any professional driving experience. The checklist is progressive, meaning that a trainee does not move on to the next until each training category has been documented as having been performed successfully. This reduces the likelihood of training accidents. Minimum training standards set the benchmark for new driver preparedness. Behind-the-wheel training documentation not only lets you know your training staff has covered all of the elements of behind-the-wheel training, it also reinforces the driver trainee learning experience. Many driving procedures can be taken for granted. An example would be that the driver trainee executes a proper turn-around procedure, analyzing the potential hazards and using the secondary road to back into. The driver meets the training requirement, but has the trainee been made aware that this is the preferred and safest method for backing or was the trainee's choice of maneuvering more a matter of chance? When the driver trainer verbally reviews proper turn-around procedures and has the trainee sign off on the turn-around procedures, that element of the training is automatically reinforced. Documentation is critical
If you have ever had a driver respond to an incident, accident or complaint by saying "I was never made aware of that procedure" or "No one ever showed me that," documentation is for you. If you ever have to face litigation generated by an accident - preventable or non-preventable -training documentation can be crucial. I have adapted the performance checklist for Head Start operations, adding such things as ability to follow complex route descriptions while driving in an urban environment. Each separate driving maneuver or procedure is initialed and dated by both the trainee and driver trainer. When the checklist is complete, the supervisor signs it and files it in the driver's permanent record. You can generate your own performance checklist by analyzing your training needs and writing a step-by-step training progression. Bob Thompson is transportation supervisor for Head Start of Clark County in Vancouver, Wash.