There’s Gold In Them Hills!

bus industry safety

In July, I was in Ontario, CA for the Bus Industry Safety Council’s first-ever BISC West meeting and up in Whitehorse, YT, for a Pacific Western corporate meeting. Both places left me thinking and dreaming about gold.

With a free afternoon in the Los Angeles area, I took in Knott’s Berry Farm, the famed theme park devoted to yesteryear and the Old West. Waiting in line for the Ghost-Rider roller-coaster, I watched pint-sized prospectors pan for gold, and had a hoot watching a few lucky kids think they’d hit it rich when they found a flake or two of real gold in their pans.

In the same vein, Whitehorse is all about the Klondike Gold Rush. It was an important hub for supplies and transportation during the stampede of gold-crazy prospectors heading to Dawson.

Finding gold is more work than luck. Mixed in with gravel, sand, and other mineral deposits, whether panning,  sluicing, or dredging, you have to dig up a bunch of dirt and wash away all the unwanted material called overburden to eventually reveal the heavier gold nuggets, flakes, and flour that remain.

Likewise, our 45 attendees learned to pan for gold when they convened at the BISC West meeting to discover what BISC is, what it does, and how it operates.

Following the opening orientation, we put on several “Best of BISC” sessions as examples of the materials and resources available to BISC members. In my session, I talked about the most common safety question I hear from the bus and motorcoach industry: Why am I having accidents, and how can I stop them?

Well, come to find out, the answer is a lot like panning for gold. It is not easy, takes patience, and you have to sift through all the overburden. Using a strategic approach to find and fix, every operator can hit the jackpot and develop an effective safety program.

Pan for the problem – find the gold

In our business, panning for gold means examining and analyzing our previous accidents and incidents. Our gold nugget shows up when we are able to capture, assemble, sort, categorize, and summarize our results. We discard the info we can’t use and categorize our accident findings by type, location, the number per driver, driver experience, and so on.

For example, earlier this year I visited a company in which drivers with three or more collisions were responsible for 81 percent of its reported accidents. The gold nugget in this problem area was obviously a lack of effective follow up and training. 

Fix the problem – redeem the gold

Once you’ve discovered gold, make these nuggets of information your center of attention. Remember, you can’t fix the whole world. Be very specific and do only what will fix the immediate problem. Only when you focus on the “must-do’s” can you extract the full value of the nuggets lying in the bottom of your pan. Leave all your dreaming of fabulous riches for another day.

The tendency of many companies more often is to water down their safety efforts with a generic hit-and-miss approach that tries to address everything they uncover, instead of finding and fixing just one or two of their main problems.

Typically, the difficulty in pinpointing the problem is not due to lack of effort, but the lack of a more accurately-focused effort. Take close-quarter maneuvering training as an example. Instead of testing the driver on a course using generic cones, try recreating the vehicle yards and parking lots where the accidents actually took place.

The processes for safety excellence are as exacting as panning for gold. Discover the real underlying problem, recognizing what is gold and what is not. Focus your safety procedures on extracting the full value in each of your gold nuggets and nothing more.

This, fellow prospectors, is the Mother Lode where we strike it rich. There’s gold in them hills!

This article orginally appeared in the September 2016 edition of Bus Ride, The Most Trusted Resource in the Bus and Motorcoach Industry.