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Jul 05

Bus Operator Training: A Behind-the-Scenes Look

Posted on July 5, 2022 at 12:00 AM by Riann Martinez

Operation Safe Driver Week“Safety is number one – our top priority,” said David Maes, Training Coordinator for Rio Metro. 

Maes oversees all bus operator training, whether those individuals are new to Rio Metro or have been with us for a number of years. Rio Metro bus operators receive at least 40 hours of training every two years, and new drivers train in the classroom and on the road for a minimum of 80 hours prior to transporting passengers.

As part of Operation Safe Driver Week, July 10-16, 2022, we’re providing a behind-the-scenes look at some of the intensive training our bus operators receive to keep our passengers – and themselves – safe and prepared for an array of situations. 

Before They Hit the Road – New Operator Training

Rio Metro bus operator classroom training instructorAll Rio Metro bus operators are required to have a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Some come into the job already holding a CDL with passenger endorsement, while others have a CDL but need to obtain their passenger endorsement, and others still may need to study and test for their CDL and passenger endorsement. Regardless, all new Rio Metro bus operators are required to do theory training and testing in the classroom and on-the-road training before they can drive on their own. Those working towards their CDL also receive the required Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Entry Level Driver Training as well as course training. 


Theory training, which happens in a classroom-style setting, covers an extensive range of topics including CPR/First Aid, defensive driving, mobility device securement, code of conduct, customer relations, emergency procedures, railroad crossings, fatigue preventing, and much more. This is done with a combination of live presentations, videos, workbooks, and finally, testing. 


Rio Metro bus on a training courseCourse training puts the concepts bus operators learn in theory training into action - and then some. Bus operators go over pre-trip inspections of the bus exterior and interior, which are performed every time a vehicle is put into service. “They have to check every single thing, and it has to be spot on,” said Maes. 

Then there are six skills tests that are given during course training, such as backing up through cones and parallel parking. 


Once a new bus operator has passed their initial training and testing, and obtained their CDL or passenger endorsement if necessary, they move on to on-the-road training. 

“All new bus operators receive at least 40 hours of on-the-road training with a CDL certified driver,” said Maes. That certified driver is often Maes himself. “When we get out on the road, we’re making sure the bus operator follows everything that was covered in training,” he said. 

Keeping You Safe – Ongoing Training

Education doesn’t just stop after a bus operator begins transporting passengers. All Rio Metro bus operators receive at least 40 hours of refresher training every two years. 

“And possibly even more than 40 hours depending on situational training,” said Maes. “For example, when we added COVID training or we have a policy or procedure change.”

Every Two Years

Rio Metro bus operator classroom trainingSome of the ongoing training bus operators receive, in addition to what was covered earlier, includes topics such as blood born pathogen, conflict de-escalation, crisis management, human trafficking awareness, safety and sensitivity, and transit security. 

“I handle some of these trainings,” said Maes. “Others are provided by certified vendors or staff.” 

Maes also takes advantage of classes offered by local and national agencies. “We have been doing First Observer Plus Training through TSA,” said Maes. This teaches bus operators to look out for anything suspicious.

Recently, he has been in touch with the Los Lunas Fire Department. “They have a simulator for fire extinguisher training where individuals have to put out a fake fire.” He hopes to add that to the regular training regimen. 

As Needed

Rio Metro bus pre-trip interior inspectionAs in every profession, change happens in public transportation. Rio Metro keeps in step, making sure bus operators are trained to proficiency on new policies, technology, and devices.

“I keep myself educated. I attend trainings and learn about new things that I can come back and train our bus operators on,” said Maes. 

One example is that every time Rio Metro gets a new model vehicle, the bus operators have to be trained to proficiency on that vehicle before they can go out on their own. 

Another example is mobility devices. “From time to time we get new mobility security devices. We have to teach our bus operators how to properly use them.” 

Remove the Risk

Bus operator training instructor with safety signageMaes, who has been training bus operators for more than 20 years, asks the same question of everyone he trains. 

“I always ask new bus operators what safety means to them. Everybody has a different interpretation,” said Maes. “The definition of safety is ‘freedom from risk.’ If you remove the risk, you’re going to be safe. That risk could be something like talking on a cell phone or eating while driving.”

Words of wisdom that everyone behind the wheel should think about. 

Operation Safe Driver Week

Operation Safe Driver Week LogoOperation Safe Driver Week, spearheaded by the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA), takes place from July 10-16, 2022. It is a safe-driving awareness initiative aimed at improving the driving behaviors of passenger vehicle drivers and commercial motor vehicle drivers. Learn More