TRAINING AND SAFETY FOR NEW VAN DRIVERS
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- Catherine Rampell, student @ University of Washington
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- Jennifer Hawes, student @ San Jose State
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TRAINING AND SAFETY FOR NEW VAN DRIVERS
Safety is a prime concern for Rocky Mountain Transport. We are proud of our safety record and of the excellent driving records of our van drivers.
Supervised Training. As a new bus driver, you will participate in a four-week training program, during this time, you will ride with an experienced driver and behold firsthand the problems associated with driving a van in snow country.
In addition, you will attend four seminars given by Jeff Marrazzo. In the first session, Jeff orients new driver to RMT and introduces them to the office staff in Denver. The second session is devoted to learning how to use the two-way radio. In the third session, Jeff acquaints new drivers with the vans and teaches them how to make simple emergency repairs. The final session, which is always the most popular, is learning how to handle difficult customers. Jeff uses roll-playing in the seminar, and he videotapes new drivers as they deal with an unhappy passenger who misses an airline connection because of a heavy snowfall.
Individual Study. All new drivers are also asked to familiarize themselves with the following technical information regarding conditions that may increase avalanche hazard.
Snowstorms: Almost 80 percent of all avalanches occur right after a storm. Even light storms can increase the hazard appreciably, particularly if they stack up the snow at a fast rate. Snow falling at the rate of about an inch per hour creates a dangerous avalanche situation. Storms in which there is a drastic temperature change also increase the avalanche danger.
Moisture Content: Any condition causing the settled snow to become more moist can set off an avalanche. Warm wind, sunshine, warm air from a warm front, rain, and even warm clouds can increase the moisture in thew snow mass and cause a dangerous avalanche.
An avalanche can be very dangerous to anyone caught in its path. Every year several avalanches occur in the areas serviced by our vans (see table).
Additional information on avalanches for new drivers concerns changes in weather conditions that may occur rapidly.
Changes in Weather Conditions: Cold or warm snaps can cause a temperature differential to develop in the snow mass. This temperature differential can cause either fracturing (usually from the cold) or lubrication (from heat) of layers of snow. Both fracturing and lubrication can start an avalanche. A sudden change in temperature, if accompanied by wind, can trigger avalanches by the dozens in some areas.
Topographical Features: Gravity continually pulls the snow mass downward on any slope. Avalanches can occur on short slopes as well as long ones. Slopes of 30 to 45 degrees produce the most avalanches, although avalanches can occur on slopes with angles as low as 25 degrees.
Knowing more about avalanche conditions helps all out drivers to avoid difficulties and to advise visitors on safety matters.
Advanced Driving Practice. New bus drivers also practice accelerating, turning, and stopping on slippery surfaces. All RMT vans are equipped with four-wheel drive. Four-wheel drive can be engaged at any time by pressing a button located in the center of the gearshift knob, This feature makes it easy for out drivers to respond to variable conditions like dry pavement where the sun strikes the road and ice where the road is shaded.
Four-wheel drive enables our drivers to pick up and discharge passengers in remote locations not accessible by ordinary vehicles. RMT has been commended several times in the local newspapers for this type of customized service. In fact, one article called us “the mountain goat of van transportation.”
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Avalanche, Precipitation, Winter storm, Snow, Avalanches, Avalanche control, Mountaineering
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