Members of UTA’s Board of Trustees are continuing to tour UTA facilities to observe day-to-day operations, meet with staff and identify ways the organization can better serve the public. Board members recently visited our Ogden and Salt Lake bus facilities to meet with employees about what’s working and ways UTA can continue to improve.

Learning About Best Practices for Bus Maintenance in Ogden

Board members Karen Cronin and Brent Taylor visited UTA’s Ogden Business Unit last week to learn about bus maintenance and what it takes to put service on the street.

While touring the bus shop floor in Ogden, trustees learned about the business unit’s unique approach to preventative vehicle maintenance. “Our goal is to prevent as many on-the-street bus issues as possible,” said Ken Rees, Manager of Vehicle Performance and Maintenance at UTA’s Ogden Business Unit. “Traditionally, preventative maintenance has been assigned to entry-level mechanics. We decided to take a different approach and now our master journeyist mechanics are conducting preventative maintenance.”

As result, buses in the Ogden Business Unit regularly go for more than 37,000 miles between road calls. “Buses that can go 10,000 miles between road calls are generally considered very good, but we far exceed that,” Rees said.

Learning What it Takes to Become a Bus Operator in Salt Lake City

This week, board members Jeff Acerson, Greg Bell, Necia Christensen, Charles Henderson and Bret Millburn met with employees at UTA’s Salt Lake Central bus facility. They learned about how UTA hires and retains bus operators, as well as the process that trainees go through to become UTA bus operators. Board members even got to try driving a 40-foot bus around the bus yard. 

Board members began their tour by meeting with UTA Bus Operations Training Supervisor Maria Stahl to learn about the process for hiring, training and retaining bus operators. According to Stahl, UTA hired more than 210 bus operators in 2016, but not all of them made it through the training required to become a UTA bus operator.

UTA operator instructors Ivan Garcia and Shauna Cox demonstrated for the board the rigorous 80-point vehicle inspection process that operators must memorize to obtain their commercial driver’s license (CDL). After operators receive their CDL, they go through a five-week operational training course, followed by a week of on-the-job training driving a regular route under the supervision of a trainer.

According to Garcia, refresher training is provided to UTA operators at regular intervals, and they receive eight to 16 hours or refresher training a year. Garcia said that the refresher training comes in the form of driving skills as well as customer service training.

In addition to having excellent defensive driving skills, UTA operators must possess excellent customer service skills. “In training class, I tell the operator trainees that we’re not driving buses,” Stahl said. “We’re transporting people.”

After taking part in a pre-trip inspection and driving a bus, board member Bret Millburn said he gained new respect for the challenges bus operators face as part of their jobs.

“Bus operators have a lot of daily challenges,” Millburn said, “from inspecting their vehicles for mechanical issues to making sure they safely navigate their routes to providing excellent customer service to their passengers.”

The board will continue touring UTA facilities throughout the month of May. Follow us here and on Facebook and Twitter for updates.