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CVTD managers earn state honors for safe bus system

February 5th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

Story and photo by Kate Rouse

LOGAN–Last year, the Cache Valley Transit District was recognized as one the safest municipal entities in the state of Utah. In May, the county-wide bus system, which is funded by sales tax, won the prestigious Risk Manager of the Year Award from Utah Local Governments Trust. Over 500 governmental organizations were competing for the award, said CVTD General Manager Todd Beutler.

“It came down to the fact that we had a very low accident frequency rate,” said Andrew Foster, personnel and risk manager at CVTD. According to Foster, when Utah Local Governments Trust took factors like number of employees and number of miles traveled into account, CVTD had the relative fewest number of preventable accidents for fiscal year 2009.

“I think (safety) really is a cultural thing,” Beutler said. “We all are risk managers.”

Beutler and Foster said in addition to holding monthly safety meetings and employing a full time safety committee, CVTD has created a work environment where employees can talk openly about safety concerns. “We want to hear from the workers, mechanics, operators who are out there and see the safety hazards that exist,” Foster said. “We’ve changed routes based on safety concerns from drivers.”

Foster said each CVTD bus driver completes 80 hours of initial supervised training, with a lot of follow-up supervision. He said each driver, regardless of experience, will have two ride checks per year. During one of them, a CVTD operation supervisor will get on the bus and ride for at least an hour, “to make sure they’re still driving the way we teach them to drive,” Foster said. For the other safety check, drivers don’t even know they’re being observed, with an operation supervisor following along in a car.

Video cameras on every bus also contribute to the safety of drivers and passengers, Beutler said, because they can be used as training tools. He also said that each driver goes through an in-depth defensive driving program.

“It’s a pretty high threshold that we hold the employees to and they do a great job,” Beutler said.

All of that effort put towards safety has paid off. Foster said in 2007, CVTD bus drivers logged over a million miles, or 364 days, accident-free.

Last year, CVTD buses completed just under 1.9 million trips and drove 851,000 miles, Beutler said. With an average of two or less preventable accidents per year (where the driver was at fault) and between 10 and 12 total accidents per year, according to Foster, the chances of being involved in an accident on a CVTD bus are around one in 200,000 rides and one in 1 million rides for accidents where the driver is at fault.

Even with those odds, Foster said, most accidents are pretty minor. “Typically when a bus gets in an accident, a lot of passengers don’t even realize they’ve been hit,” Foster said. “There has not been a lost time injury (where an employee had to take time off work due to an injury) since I’ve been working here.” This April, Foster will have worked for CVTD for 11 years.

Beutler credits CVTD’s high safety marks to the readiness of the company to make improvements and changes when necessary. He said that all staff members are encouraged to ride the bus every two weeks at least, and even CVTD board members ride the bus fairly regularly.

“It’s about having that discussion– asking questions,” Beutler said. “The answer we don’t want to hear is ‘we’ve always done it that way’. We want to hear, ‘we’ve always done it that way, and this is why.’ There’s always ways to improve and ways to move forward.”

NW

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