Question 5

Identify the process by which training programs and partners will be identified and selected. Consider whether previous training programs have been successful or not. Potential recipients may propose the development of a training program.

Best Practices:

On the selection of training programs and partners, as on almost all the questions raised here, agencies should start with robust stakeholder involvement of their own workforce.

Before writing up procurement specifications, consider involving the operators and technicians who will be directly affected by the introduction of the ZEBs.  Their perspectives may influence many aspects of how to transition from current operations to the new technology. Hearing directly from the frontline workers about what is relevant for training could help inform what training specifications are needed in the Request for Proposals. In this recently released report, one can find very detailed information on sample procurement language.

The vendors supplying the ZEBs and major related systems will be expert in training needed for their specific equipment.  In buying the bus, agency procurement officials should consider whether to also buy the needed training.  That need is often overlooked when making capital purchases. 

Below is a list of major, full size ZEB manufacturers (others will be added over time):

As mentioned elsewhere, two major areas of training may merit particular attention:

  • basic electrical/electronic skills; and
  • high voltage safety.

Each of the OEMs listed above will have its own high voltage safety protocols and related training. It can make sense to use that training as a resource. Agencies also should develop in-house policies and procedures of their own on high-voltage safety. For reasons other than training, agencies should have a close working relationship with the local electrical utility, as well as local fire departments, who can both share their experience, training, and best practices around high-voltage safety. Similarly, first responders from local fire departments or Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) will need to know about the ZEBs and develop their own safety practices. Working together can enhance safety for all.

The skills gap on electrical and electronic systems creates its own set of dilemmas. OEMs may not be equipped or able to remedy this long-standing gap. Agencies should consider creative approaches to achieve rapid learning gains on electrical-electronic systems.  In choosing partners for this particular need, agencies and the joint labor-management training committee should be as specific as possible about the training need. As noted in Question 4, community colleges or local Career Technical Education (CTE) providers, for example, could be excellent partners. With the results of a skills gap analysis, the labor-management partnership would have a specific list of learning objectives that need to be covered.  Even in the absence of a full skills gap analysis, the APTA Standard for Training on Electrical and Electronic Systems provides a comprehensive list of learning needs. The community college may be able to adapt its existing courses to such needs. 

Any training provider needs to show evidence that it has experience in workplace education and can provide evidence of success in training incumbent workers. Classroom training should be integrated with significant opportunity for hands-on practice. That can occur through an apprenticeship program with good mentoring. A training provider can use training aids that allow for hands-on application of learning. A technical trainer from the OEM, from a community college, or from agency staff might work onsite to demonstrate the needed skills on the new equipment.

In addition to these training partnerships, some agencies are exploring highly innovative training technology that allows workers to learn through gamification, virtual or augmented reality.  The ability to train workers virtually on the use of digital multimeter allows for making and learning from mistakes with very low risk.  In supplementing this document in the near future, TWC will supply some specific examples of a few locations using this advanced training technology.

Finally, in measuring outcomes and success of training programs:

  • Metrics of Success highlights measurable outcomes of transit training partnerships, and includes the various ways in which training outcomes were measured, and the benefits gained from the training.
  • Conducting pre- and post-assessments has been proven an effective tool for measuring training outcomes. Workers are first given an evaluation of their knowledge and skills in the form of questions administered prior to the training, then measured afterwards to determine gains using the same questions. Pre- and post-assessments can be constructed in a variety of ways. One is to use the skills gap survey, given before the training as a pre-assessment, and following the training as a post-assessment. The labor management team, which should decide upon and approve all assessments and related procedures, could also develop a series of hands-on exercises as the basis for the evaluations. For foundational E/E training, taking and passing the ASE certification test could be used as another outcome.
  • In the end, the best learning outcome derived from training is a technician’s ability to properly and safely perform job tasks. Those tasks could be defined by a series of SOPs, step-by-step instructions for carrying out job tasks, developed by the OEMs or by the agency from established recommended practices. The key measure of any effective training program is its ability to convert instruction into actionable job tasks.  Knowing how regenerative braking is used to help charge propulsion batteries is one thing, knowing how to diagnose and repair a related fault is entirely another.

Best Practices Examples:

SporTran, ATU Local 558, and External Partners

  • SporTran in Shreveport, Louisiana attributes its successful transition to Battery Electric Buses to a number of factors, including three key elements: learning lessons from problems with their earlier purchase of Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) buses; documenting every stage of the process and all maintenance issues; and, based on those lessons, moving through this transition process in close collaboration with ATU Local 558 and the ZEB vendor.
  • The frontline union workers with expertise in bus operations and maintenance, along with their management counterparts, were involved from the very beginning of the process. Their participation in initial focus group meetings with the vendor, Proterra, ensured that key questions were asked and answered, and critical elements were included in the final procurement agreement. Proterra provided a technician onsite regularly over a significant period of time to work with SporTran technicians on a range of areas, including troubleshooting issues specific to ZEBs. SporTran employees, members of ATU Local 558, currently maintain the BEBs on property and maintain the charging equipment.
  • Safety constituted a critical aspect of the training.  In addition to labor and management safety experts, SporTran brought in the local utility and fire department to ensure they were aware of the transition and to work together on high-voltage safety issues.  The agency is also working with a local community college on basic courses for their technicians in the electrical/electronics area.
  • SporTran’s General Manager emphasizes that a collective effort was central to their ZEB transition.  This transition worked, he notes, because everyone worked together.

Additional Resources:




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