Evaluating bus operator performance

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Evaluating bus driver performance on Steamboat Springs Transit in Steamboat Springs, CO. Source: Steamboat Today

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Bus operator evaluations support safe practices, agency policies, customer satisfaction, and operational efficiency and effectiveness. There are many ways to carry out performance evaluations.

Formal and Informal Evaluation

Formal evaluation systems can serve both the employee and the agency. A formal evaluation provides a regular and expected opportunity for the bus driver to improve their performance and refresh themselves on policies and procedures. Analyzing the collective data from evaluations, the agency can identify areas of weakness in training, observation, expectations, and more. While formal evaluations can be a helpful tool in supporting a high-quality operation, many agencies do not carry out a regular formal review process [1] [23]. Annual evaluations are common among agencies with a formal process.

Informal evaluations are typically unscheduled and unexpected and may be limited in structure or scope. Agencies can sometimes carry out informal evaluations in reaction to customer complaints or major incidents. Supervisors should be cautious about potentially overreacting to a serious problem with one employee by conducting unscheduled evaluations of others or all employees. Informal evaluations are less effective at providing a broad look at agency performance than a formal structured system. However, agency culture can include unscheduled informal evaluations that are expected as part of the job. Informal evaluations can support "spot-checks" and supervisor-operator interactions.

Two-Way or "360-degree feedback"

Operator evaluations can provide an opportunity for two-way review: The bus driver receives feedback on their performance, and the driver has an opportunity to communicate to their supervisor issues or concerns they have experienced or observed. In order for this method to be successful, the agency and supervisors must be willing and able to accept critique as much as they expect their staff to do so. While not an easy method of evaluation, it can help agencies improve and build trust with operators. References needed

Further Reading

Transit Cooperative Research Program. TCRP Synthesis 40 "A Challenged Employment System: Hiring, Training, Performance Evaluation, and Retention of Bus Operators." 2001.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has a Workforce Development website with a growing body of resources.