We put our lives in their hands every single day.
The training local bus drivers go through before they can drive you and thousands of others each day is not what you may have in mind.
“They are better at what it is they do. From scanning and looking, being safe, taking care of our customers, getting them from point A to point B safety,” said David Hall, Bus Operator at Waco Transit System.
This means before drivers get to drive on real buses, they must first put their skills to the test using a bus simulator.
“It’s a series of computers that try to create this simulated environment so that our drivers have a safe, controlled environment to practice some of their driving skills that we may or may not get to experience out there in the roadway,” said Allen Hunter, General Manager at Waco Transit System.
The driving simulator, which takes up almost an entire room, is all part of a partnership with TxDot.
“The cost of this simulator is in the neighborhood of about $500,000. Fortunately with this partnership with TXDOT, it didn’t cost the city of Waco anything,” added Hunter.
It has a nearly 360 degree area of vision, allowing drivers to experience what it’s like driving a bus without actually getting in one.
“For example, we can give them snow, we can give them ice, we can give them a blown tire or a blown engine. You know, most drivers in their lifetime may never see any of those scenarios, but I can give all of that to them, put them on a hill and make them lose their brakes and see how they handle those situations” said Hall.
The technology allows each driver to go through different scenarios that test ability, skill and alertness.
“Not only does it come with pre-programed scenarios but we also have the ability to program our own scenarios,” said Hunter.
Giving each driver the confidence to take on the real world.
“They’re a lot of help, I needed to get to an appointment yesterday and I didn’t know where I was going and they helped me get there,” said Juan Mendez, who takes the bus regularly. He says drivers go above and beyond their training to help.
Waco Transit is looking to share this gem with other agencies.
“Maybe the Waco Independent School District, maybe other city departments, again this thing can be, although it looks like a large cutaway, it can be a firetruck, it could be a trash truck, it could be a number of different vehicles, a school bus, just through the magic of a few key strokes,” said Hunter.
Giving each driver the tools they need today, to know what to do when they go out into the real world, tomorrow.
“It can make them a much better driver before they get in the world,” said Hall.