Training is essential for the drivers of Mid Columbia Bus Company, both at the start of their driving careers and on an ongoing basis. Part of MidCo's motto is "Transporting America's Future." MidCo makes sure to invest in its drivers and, in return, drivers invest in their jobs.
Each driver is required to have a minimum of 15 hours behind the wheel of the bus just to begin driving a bus for MidCo. Most have 20 hours. In addition, each driver is required to put in a minimum of 16 hours of drive time during an in-service for drivers each August. Drivers must also complete a minimum of one hour of training every month of the year.
Training prepares drivers for tackling a variety of issues, from dealing with difficult student behaviors, disaster training, evacuations, defensive driving and curbing bullying. Most bullying is dealt with on the bus between the driver and students involved, but sometimes the driver will request meetings with the school principal and students' parents. MidCo utilizes cameras on all of its buses -- some of which are decoys, but look just like a real camera -- to help deter bad behaviors on the buses. These cameras have caught bullying in the act, as well as vandalism, such as cutting the seat backs.
MidCo is also very strict with its drivers about making sure they check their buses at the end of every route to make sure there aren't any students left on the bus (i.e., they fell asleep and missed their stop). MidCo Location Manager Mark Parm said drivers get to know the students on their routes very well, so they can tell if someone's not there or missed their stop.