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The Source for Public Transportation News and Analysis April 6, 2012
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With BOSS, Public Transit Can Invest in Bus Operators
BY SUSAN BERLIN, Senior Editor

Public transportation agency heads understand that their operators are as important an investment as the vehicles they will operate. APTA’s Bus Operator Selection Survey (BOSS) provides a tool that will help them make the correct hiring decisions.

“The hiring of employees is one of the largest, most important investments a public transit agency can make,” said Carl Sedoryk, general manager/chief executive officer, Monterey-Salinas Transit (MST), Monterey, CA. “It’s critical to hire the right people, not only to provide excellent customer service and ensure the safety of both customers and system employees, but also to limit the financial liability of the organization.”

APTA has offered the BOSS process for almost 15 years as a way to help public transit systems select reliable, safe, and customer-oriented bus operators for their fleets. The firm of EB Jacobs worked with DOT, the Department of Labor, and APTA member transit system CEOs and training directors to develop the program.

MTA New York City Transit (NYC Transit) is the largest subscriber to the BOSS program and a participant since its inception.

Walter Orlowski, NYC Transit assistant chief officer, safety and training, noted that the agency instituted BOSS around the same time it made internal changes to its training process to add a one-year probation period. “Between the two, we’ve been able to provide a better operator,” he said, noting that the agency hires an average of 1,000 bus operators each year.

According to Sedoryk, BOSS has shown evident benefits to MST: “We’ve reduced our turnover by 25 percent and lowered our insurance premiums, accident frequency, and severity since we began using BOSS in 2003 as part of an overall program focusing on customer safety and service.”

More specifically, he said, the implementation of BOSS has reduced the system’s recruitment and training costs by approximately $40,000 per year; cut the number of accidents and injuries; and lessened the amount of time MST spends on managing poor performers. These results parallel APTA’s study of more than 800 bus operators hired using the BOSS system, which projects an average of seven fewer missed days per operator and 20 percent fewer accidents per year.

Orlowski explained that human resources employees use BOSS, as part of the hiring process, to ask bus operator applicants how they would respond in a variety of on-the-job situations. “Their answers identify who’s an appropriate candidate for your system,” he noted. “These employees deal with customer service, people taking public transit to work… they need the proper tools to let them communicate with the public.”

While saying the program is not a “silver bullet,” Sedoryk said: “Programs like BOSS should be part of everyone’s program to ensure the highest levels of safety for both customers and employees, customer service, on-time performance, and improved employee attendance.”

Components of BOSS
The BOSS selection protocol includes a pre-employment screening survey and structured interview process. Applicants can take the 75-item BOSS survey either in person, with paper and pencil, or online. The virtue of the online “eBoss” application is that test results become available immediately.“We make BOSS part of our recruitment process,” Sedoryk said. “After applicants submit their applications and come in for an interview, the first thing we do is have them take the BOSS test. This can actually save time and effort because some people will show through their responses they don’t have a predisposition for the job. Others do, and that’s where the system will want to focus its attention.”

He continued: “When looking at our history, we found that once we started hiring employees with the help of BOSS—only selecting those with the highest rankings for safety and attendance—we reduced our involuntary terminations within the first year of employment by 25 percent.”

The BOSS process also includes a structured interview process that complements the survey; it offers standardized questions and behaviorally anchored rating scales linked specifically to the job of bus operator, as well as up to three hours of consulting assistance by phone.

In summation, Sedoryk said: “Is a public transit agency using any type of employment selection criteria in its hiring—for example, safety, customer service, on-time performance, attendance? If they are hiring and retaining individuals who are predisposed to be excellent in these areas, a program like BOSS should be considered.”

More information about BOSS is available from Cheryl Pyatt.

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