Training and MESE

Some types of training are common to, and extremely important to, every mode. These include: defensive driving, vehicle handling and care, first aid and CPR, mirror usage and adjustment. Other training is specific to certain modes. For example, customer service (which has nothing to do with safety) is generally considered the most important element of motorcoach training. In comparison, training for paratransit services generally includes (beyond the universal elements noted above) seizure and infant seizure training, service area orientation and map reading, passenger handling and care, passenger assistance (including training in boarding and alighting), blood-borne pathogen training, wheelchair loading and securement, passenger securement, sensitivity training, record-keeping, radio and/or MDT (mobile data terminal) communications, and where needed, signing. In contrast, school bus drivers require training in a spectrum of skills ranging from crossing procedures to passenger management.

Negligent training is one of the first things most attorneys think of in most accident or incident cases involving public transportation. This is usually a mistake, since training is often the one management function that is performed properly. The problem is that for training to have any meaning, it must be understood, retained and applied. Thus, without ensuring that all three aspects of training are executed regularly and properly, excellent training is a boomerang for many defendants: If one’s driver training was so terrific, how could this accident or incident have happened? I refer to this relationship as the “training conundrum.” The reality is, driver conduct and performance must be monitored. If it is not monitored, it cannot be evaluated. If it is not evaluated, it cannot be supervised. If it cannot be supervised, it cannot be enforced. (My acronym for these elements is MESE. If you want to find out if any transportation system is safe, find out if it “has MESE.”) As a result, entire operating functions may be missing, and the defendant’s operations comprise a “pattern of negligence” — a characterization adequate to subject the defendant to an assessment of punitive damages in a number of states.

Finally, one important aspect of monitoring rarely performed is management’s assurance that drivers follow the precise sequence of stops, arrive at and depart from them on time, and where specific paths between stops are defined, that the drivers do not deviate from them.