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When professionals become experts: Expert Handling Training for bus and touring coach drivers from Omniplus

Rapidly advancing technology, a component of the Professional Driver Qualification Act

New assistance systems, complex technology – despite automation and a perfect setup of drive systems or air conditioning systems, bus driving means much more than operating the steering wheel, accelerator pedal and brake. Assistance systems help, but drivers need to know and understand them in order to benefit from them. Omniplus Expert Handling Training is a training course on how to make optimum use of all technological systems. This is where professionals at the wheel learn how to take advantage of their vehicles’ options. For even greater safety, economic efficiency and comfort. And for relaxed and confident handling of advanced technology. Even old hands will benefit from Expert Handling Training, along with young drivers.

Rapidly advancing technology, a component of the Professional Driver Qualification Act

Highly efficient technological systems in new, modern vehicles can make a greater contribution to economic efficiency and environmental friendliness than you might suspect. In order to be able to make optimum use of this valuable potential for specific operations in the fleet, it is crucial that all bus and touring coach drivers become familiar with and learn to use the options and functions of their new vehicles. “Technology is advancing extremely rapidly,” notes Nils Ungericht, trainer and training coordinator as well as head of the recognized training center for professional driver training from Omniplus.

“A 2022 Mercedes-Benz Citaro is incomparable with the 2012 Citaro. Sometimes the new bus in the fleet looks the same as its predecessor, but it features different equipment.”

Complex door control for city buses, switching from combustion to electric drive, new or evolved assistance systems, new equipment options for successor models, switching vehicles in the fleet to another brand, helping with self-help when traveling to remote regions, and, in general, refreshing and enhancing skills and knowledge – there are countless reasons for Omniplus Expert Handling Training. Another major reason: Like the other driver training courses from Omniplus, the one-day seminar is a recognized component of the Professional Driver Qualification Act. With this combination, it’s no wonder that the demand for Expert Handling Training is constantly growing.

Driver trainers from Omniplus: Nobody knows Mercedes-Benz and Setra buses better

It’s about new buses and touring coaches with new technology as well as existing buses and touring coaches with new drivers. And sometimes a fleet of used vehicles may be added to the existing fleet. Nobody knows the nuances of bus and touring coach technology better and can explain them more clearly than the manufacturer’s trainers, because they know the buses and touring coaches from Mercedes-Benz and Setra down to the last nut and bolt. They know exactly what assistance systems can do. And what they can’t do. Look around the corner, for example, to see why you don’t have to rely on assistance systems on highway bends or ahead of road crests and on other occasions, but always have to rely on yourself as a driver.

The trainers know the small tricks, such as opening the luggage compartment flaps with air from the spare tire if a weak battery means the automatic opening function is not available. Or the fact that the displayed fault codes don’t have to be tediously described and it is better to just take a photo of them with a smartphone and attach them to the emergency call as an image. Or where to not stow away sleeping bags in the luggage compartment during school trips to avoid obstructing the ventilation of the passenger compartment. Trainers will explain how to deal with the issue of ventilation during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are familiar with the misunderstanding when the operating message for energy-saving mode lights up on the display and the driver then reports an electrical fault. Or the feeling of uncertainty when a coffee cup icon appears in the instrument panel menu and causes concern about a problem with the kitchenette. When it’s only the harmless indication that Attention Assist has been installed. But they also know about the major dramas. What to do, for example, if drivers have accidently filled a canister of AdBlue into the diesel fuel tank: Nothing, besides an emergency call, not even an engine start at the service station. 

On-site training in the fleets with customer vehicles

The instruction at vehicle handover may have been thorough, and after that you may be able to move buses and touring coaches but often not yet master them perfectly. This makes comprehensive theoretical and practical instruction useful, including driving lessons and details on the current assistance systems that ensure economical and environmentally friendly driving. Nils Ungericht is aware of another issue: “Not all buses and touring coaches have everything.” In many fleets, the same vehicles feature different equipment because more or fewer special equipment features were checked off on the purchase order. And you can’t use what you don’t know.

“We don’t teach the drivers how to drive,” Nils Ungericht explains. However: “Bus and touring coach drivers must have an idea of the technology in order to avoid errors.” Trainers prefer a training session shortly after handing over vehicles. After the initial trips, once the first questions have cropped up. Training is preferably provided on site with vehicles within customer fleets that bus and touring coach drivers will operate on a daily basis. The range covers all model series and models of Mercedes-Benz and Setra, including the eCitaro and the S 531 DT double-decker bus. In addition, Omniplus also has its own fleet for training, consisting of the Mercedes-Benz Citaro and Tourismo as well as a Setra TopClass S 516 HDH.

A healthy mix of theory and practice with customer-specific documents

Bus and touring coach drivers are usually hands-on and practical. Therefore, the training is made up of a healthy mix of theory and practice. That’s why groups are often split – while one half of the participants is in the cockpit of a bus or touring coach with the trainer, the other half works in groups to develop solutions for self-help on the vehicle with the help of the operating instructions. For this reason, Expert Handling Training groups are limited to twelve or a maximum of 15 participants. Nothing and nobody will get lost during an intensive day. For Nils Ungericht, it’s important that “it’s all about understanding, not memorizing.”

It’s about studying the fundamentals of bus and touring coach technology as well as specific knowledge of the vehicles in the individual fleet. When driving an eCitaro every day, different topics are more important than when at the wheel of a Tourismo or Setra TopClass 500. For this purpose, the trainers not only compile general material for training on the engine, exhaust gas cleaning, clutch, transmission, electrics or brakes, but also documents for the respective model series of the fleet. For this reason, the vehicle is also driven and maneuvered if required. And at the same time participants learn, for example, that not handling a clutch correctly may destroy it, even in the case of a fully automated manual transmission.

Expert Handling Training can sometimes last two days. For example, when it includes an in-depth driving discussion or when touring coaches are used for training which are also used for trips to remote regions, in which case the training includes a session on how to install a drive belt for an alternator or changing a tire in the event of a puncture, starting with the correct positioning of the jack. Assembling the emergency outside mirrors that are included as standard in all touring coaches is also discussed, as is the process to deal with an electrical fault. In this way, bus and touring coach drivers will know how to help themselves.

The objective is to have confident and competent drivers and correspondingly relaxed passengers, lower fuel consumption thanks to optimum use, reduced damage and even greater safety. The result of the Expert Handling Training is often substantial and verifiable: Less damage, lower repair costs, fewer complaints. Because now it’s not just professionals who are sitting behind the wheel, but real experts.

Omniplus quality: Small classes, experienced trainers, practical training

An outstanding feature of Omniplus driver training sessions is their high quality. The training sessions are at premium level just like the buses and touring coaches from Mercedes-Benz and Setra. At events at bus and touring coach companies, the trainers contact the companies in advance and ask whether there are specific topics that they want to address during the training. They also take care of applying for the individual training facilities, because there are strict rules to follow from room size to seating and equipment.

Participants can immediately sense quality during every training session. According to the Professional Driver Qualification Act, learning groups may consist of up to 25 persons. Omniplus limits the groups to 12 to 15 persons, as this increases learning success, especially with very practical topics relating to driving. This practice is the focus of Omniplus driver training sessions anyway. Although lawmakers may be satisfied with theoretical instructions for all modules, Omniplus relies on a balanced mix of theory and practice, preferably with buses and touring coaches operated by the respective company. Where authorities require a duration of seven hours for a day’s training, with Omniplus the sessions won’t end if participants still have questions and issues. Trainers will research any issues they cannot answer directly on site and provide answers at a later point. After all, they can rely on the many experts from Daimler Buses in development and testing.

In addition to the necessary certificates for professional training in accordance with the Professional Driver Qualification Act, the result is well-informed and well-trained bus and touring coach drivers. Drivers can get the most out of their Mercedes-Benz or Setra bus or touring coach in terms of safety, economy and comfort for the benefit of passengers and fleets as well as themselves.

The eleven full-time trainers in Germany are the most significant quality component of Omniplus driver training. Without exception, they have completed technical training in motor vehicles and have further training as a workshop manager or technician. In addition, there is certified advanced training as a trainer. They will also take on Omniplus workshop and service training courses, so they are very familiar with vehicle technology. Furthermore, they are also bus and touring coach drivers and speak the language of the drivers. Competence is also ensured for driver training courses apart from vehicle technology. For example, a qualified psychologist is in charge of the communication training.

Eight driver training courses from Omniplus cover a wide range

Omniplus organizes around 200 driver training sessions in “normal” times that are not affected by a pandemic. The offering is made up of eight components. These cover a wide range of applications. Safety training is especially spectacular. The focus here is on accident prevention, and drivers are trained to be prepared for borderline situations. The training is available at three levels. And what if something still happens on the road, perhaps to other road users in the immediate vicinity? Then the contents of the emergency training course will help. These enable the driving personnel to keep calm even in dangerous situations.

Eco-training is also legendary and more important than ever in times of high fuel prices. It shows drivers that saving fuel and keeping to the timetable is not mutually exclusive. And at the same time, they arrive at their destination even more relaxed, comfortable, eco-friendly and safe. Some bus and touring coach drivers have had unpleasant experiences during inspections. That’s where training on regulations and digital monitoring devices can help. The complex content, such as driving times and rest periods, labor law, operation of the digital monitoring device and other regulations necessary for passenger transport, offers an abundance of material.

Sitting behind the wheel for a long time every day and eating a lot at the dinner table? The Fitness, Nutrition and First Aid driver training raises awareness of good health. Staying physically and mentally fit is the main topic, and first aid routines are also refreshed. Inclusion is a major social task, for bus and touring coach drivers as well. During driver training, you will learn how to deal with people with restricted mobility, and first aid skills will help you to become more aware of and confident in dealing with people with restricted mobility and passengers in general. Communication training teaches participants how to defuse sensitive situations on the road. Drivers are the company’s business cards. Here, you will practice behavioral and conversational techniques in emergency situations as well as important basic principles of customer-oriented communication.

In addition to the driving personnel, Omniplus also trains workshop employees in a targeted manner during workshop training, so that all employees involved in all aspects of the vehicle are fit for their tasks. Booking all the offerings is extremely easy on the Bus Training Platform or the Omniplus On Portal.

SOURCE: Daimler

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