PARTA trains student drivers for safety

Josh Echt

Respect the bus.

That’s the message Anna D. Roosa, Portage Area Regional Transport Authority training and safety manager, is trying to convey to pedestrians and PARTA drivers.

“It’s not a school bus, which has flashing lights and a sign to warn drivers of its presence,” she said. “Respect the size of the bus. It can’t stop as quickly as a car due to its long length.”

The importance of safe pedestrian, vehicle and bus interaction is important when hiring and training new student bus drivers for PARTA, Roosa said. If the trainers feel a student is not paying attention to safety issues, he or she is let go.

Training a driver from start to finish takes between six and eight weeks, said Giovanni Pagano, PARTA campus division operation supervisor.

“Some get the training down quick, but others need some guidance,” Roosa said. “It’s not for everybody.”

After some initial classroom instruction, students receive a temporary permit for a commercial driver’s license after passing a written test at a nearby license bureau, Pagano said.

Students enter Phase One upon receiving their permits. They start driving a bus with the trainer. The trainer and students practice maneuverability tests, basic vehicle operation and pre-trip safety inspections.

The trainer and students also drive the buses without passengers around campus to get a feel for “trouble spots,” such as hard turns or high volume pedestrian traffic, Pagano said.

During the CDL test, students are required to perform a pre-trip inspection to ensure the bus they will use is safe. As part of the pre-trip check, student drivers must know the location and operation of safety items or procedures. The check must be completed in 30 minutes. Most start at 45 to 50 minutes, Roosa said.

“If they get it down to 25 to 27 minutes, they get excited,” she said. “By the time students are at that point in training, they understand their bus inside and out.”

Upon receiving their CDL, students begin Phase Two, where they are required to drive actual routes with veteran drivers.

Students successfully complete Phase Two by driving each route a minimum of two hours, Pagano said.

After students pass a final evaluation conducted by the trainer, they can sign up for hours and routes.

Contact general assignment reporter Josh Echt at [email protected]