The National Academies

TCRP E-08 [Completed]

Extending and Deepening National Transit Training Standards

  Project Data
Funds: $250,000
Research Agency: Transportation Learning Center
Principal Investigator: Lewis Clopton
Effective Date: 7/14/2008
Completion Date: 10/13/2009

The transit industry is experiencing a period of resurgence and growth. As ridership continues to grow, transit agencies are deploying new technologies to serve passengers that expect highly responsive, environmentally appealing and safe transit services. As newer and more convenient transit systems are deployed, agencies are faced with the need to operate and maintain equipment that is becoming more complex. This calls for a workforce that is constantly being trained and retrained on new equipment, even at a time when many existing workers are fast approaching retirements and when the industry has to recruit new workers in highly competitive labor markets. These opportunities and challenges are made more complicated by the fact that many of today’s younger and less experienced workers have little understanding of the new technical requirements of transportation systems as few schools provide this type of training. As a result, transit agencies are finding that they must continuously train their maintenance mechanics and technicians to develop the needed skills.

Most recently, transit managers and labor representatives are working in partnerships to address the growing skills shortages affecting transit by identifying training requirements and developing national standards for bus and rail maintenance occupations. The Transportation Learning Center (TLC) has served as a key facilitator for the labor-management partnerships in developing these standards. To date, working in concert with APTA, joint labor-management national training standards have been developed for key areas of bus maintenance corresponding to ASE testing for bus maintenance certification. Working closely with APTA and the major transit unions, the TLC is also facilitating the development of training standards for four transit rail maintenance occupations. 

The objective of this project was to take transit maintenance standards to the next level by developing activities that further the implementation of standards within the transit maintenance community. Each of the activities was intended to foster the application of national maintenance training standards as examples of best practices.

This project was to further the utility of the emerging joint national training standards by developing activities which will complement the national training standards and increase their usefulness. Four deliverables were proposed to complement and implement national training standards that have been completed:

1. In each of the four rail maintenance crafts (railcar, signals, elevator and escalator, and wayside power), the national training standards were coordinated with the FTA’s State Safety Oversight process and APTA’s Manual of Standards and Recommended Best Practices to ensure that the national rail maintenance training standards fully incorporate State Safety Oversight requirements and APTA’s Standards and Recommended Best Practices.
2. To improve the acceptance and adoption of the national standards for transit maintenance training, a system of courseware evaluation and sharing was developed and disseminated via the internet and other appropriate dissemination media.
3. An implementation plan was developed for developing regional training centers for bus maintenance of electrical and electronic systems using existing agency resources. This will respond to the acute shortage of well trained and skilled technicians for bus electrical and electronic maintenance. These shortages are most acute in medium and small transit agencies that have very limited training capacities. The training modules used in this training would be the Bus Electrical and Electronics Maintenance Training Standards that were recently developed as part of the training standards development.
4. The TLC worked with transit agencies and trainers throughout the U.S. to take the national training standards and develop pilot maintenance training programs.

Task 1: APTA Standards, Federal and State Safety/Security Oversight Coordination with Rail Transit Maintenance Training Standards

Each of the rail maintenance training standards (signals, elevator and escalator, wayside power) is critical to the safety and security of rail transit. The training standards have implicitly integrated safety considerations. The maintenance training standards were coordinated with state safety oversight agencies, APTA’s Standards and Recommended Best Practices for Rail Transit Maintenance and, the evolving New Starts and security requirements for rail transit that the Department of Homeland Security and FTA are coordinating. These considerations resulted in enhancements to the maintenance training standards recommended by the transit industry labor-management subject matter experts. This process was undertaken in close coordination with APTA and FTA to ensure the successful incorporation of relevant safety and security oversight considerations in the rail maintenance training standards.

Task 2: System of courseware evaluation for training standards consistency

Courseware, including instructional resources, training models and simulators, software, demonstrators, etc., is essential to successful technical training and instruction. In each of the areas where maintenance training standards are completed or under development there are courseware of various types and qualities. In this task, transit agencies were requested to make available to the TLC their non-proprietary courseware. As this courseware was made available, subject matter experts from labor and management were asked to review the courseware and to evaluate the consistency of the courseware with established training standards. The outcomes of this process were included in a compendium of courseware compliant with the national training standards. This compendium will be disseminated to transit agencies and their trainers. This will assist trainers with identifying course resources for instruction and facilitate the development of courses of training consistent with the training standards

Task 3: Develop a plan for a pilot program that would use larger agencies as regional centers to provide electrical and electronic (EE) training to maintenance personnel from smaller sized agencies using established training standards.

Buses have become increasingly complex with the majority of that complexity coming in the form of advanced electrical and electronic (EE) systems. The success of onboard bus electronics, especially Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), depends on skilled technicians to keep this sophisticated equipment operational. The vast majority of technicians, however, were trained in mechanical methods and lack essential EE skills. Although it is extremely difficult for smaller agencies with limited resources to provide the specialized training needed to impart these skills, larger agencies routinely deliver top-level EE training in classrooms with empty seats.

An evaluation study was conducted to determine if larger transit agencies would be willing to serve as a pilot program for establishing three to four Regional EE Training Centers throughout the country, and if smaller agencies would be willing to send personnel to these centers. The study identified the issues associated with establishing regional EE training centers and the resources required to implement a pilot program. Included in the evaluation study was a review of the EE curriculum offered by potential pilot agencies to determine if agency courses comply with established EE training standards and the ability of these courses to prepare students for ASE certification.

Task 4: Develop Curriculum Pilots for Rail Transit Maintenance Occupational Training

The larger transit agencies that operate heavy rail transit have well developed training departments. These agencies will be well positioned to incorporate the maintenance training standards into their training programs with appropriate contingencies based on the particulars of the agency’s equipment, practices and working conditions. For smaller rail operators, such as those with a limited number of rail corridors and equipment, the training standards will provide a baseline for the training of their rail maintainers. This is the case with many of the recent and new light rail agencies which are challenged with hiring and training maintenance personnel with limited training departments and budgets. The TLC worked with agencies to develop pilot programs to implement important parts of the rail maintenance training standards and evaluate their effectiveness in the training of new workforce entrants and the retraining of incumbent workers. The TLC conducted three pilots to execute and evaluate the effectiveness of the rail training standards.

The APTA Standards and Recommended Best Practices for Transit Rail Systems were developed in 2004 and were substantially implemented in the industry by September 2006. The development of training for the four rail occupations covered by this labor-management cooperative effort will support the further implementation of the rail standards and best practices. This was initiated and developed with the concurrence of APTA, ATU and key Locals of TWU and IBEW.

In addition to supporting the implementation of standards and best practices, the five bus and rail occupational categories included here are occupations that are subject to shortages of adequately trained employees. As rail transit systems have expanded and continue to expand and, as the related equipment and systems have become more complex and integrated, the need for training transit maintenance technicians has become more acute. This need is further accentuated by the aging existing workforce, with many of the older rail transit systems facing the pending retirement of existing signals, facilities and vehicles maintenance personnel. In the case of escalator maintainers, and to lesser degree elevator maintainers, there are very few training programs and training resources outside of those available from OEM’s and escalator installation contractors. This project was critical in addressing the need for training for escalator technicians. The training provided through this process will help to increase the numbers of rail maintenance personnel with appropriate training and qualifications and will assist agencies in developing their internal training programs.

Status: This project funded a portion of a larger effort being conducted by the Transportation Learning Center.  The revised final report for the project has been submitted.


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