Oct
01
2017
Volume
5-6

Behind The Scenes With Diversified: The Business of Buses Takes a Team

(1 Vote)

Diversified buses are an ever-present part of Fort McMurray’s landscape. But, have you ever wondered what goes into putting one of these behemoth vehicles on the road? The team work, the processes, and the departments that come together at Diversified are a well-oiled machine ensuring your buses arrive on time. We decided to take you behind the scenes.

But, let’s start with the basics. The length of an average bus is 45 feet. It has 55 seats. The motor coaches that takes Fort McMurray employees to and from the various worksites (i.e. Albian, Suncor, Syncrude etc.) each take 770 litres of gas – that’s approximately 203 gallons. The size of the fleet varies based on service requirements. At the moment, Diversified has about 350 highway motor coaches as well as a number of site service vehicles.

“Long before our coaches hit the road heading to your bus stop, many of our employees have been hard at work,” explains Maribeth Wilson, Director of Communications, Diversified.

“Our management and business development team are focused on understanding the customer needs and determining equipment design and rates to meet the estimated demands.”

Diversified’s safety team then steps in to survey the routes and bus stops to ensure safe journey management is in place. It is then on to the recruitment department, which recruits and hires required staff - drivers, field/safety managers, schedulers, dispatchers, base controllers, to name a few.

The maintenance department (working with operations) selects the vehicles required and ensures all are in sound, working order.

“Diversified’s entire maintenance program is based upon a proactive approach, and applies to all units we operate. For example, each unit is inspected before and after each trip and every 28 days brought into the shop for a complete inspection.

“Over the years we have improved the quality of our units. We have been able to enhance our base vehicle specification for motor coaches that operate exclusively in Fort McMurray. As a long-time operator in Fort McMurray we have a well-established fleet,” she adds.

Diversified operates two maintenance facilities in Fort McMurray and one in the Fort McKay Industrial Park.

Next in the lineup is the operations team, which builds the required trips using Diversified’s customized scheduling/dispatch software.

“Our IT department ensures all relevant data (GPS, mapping, passenger apps, etc.) are functioning accurately and Wi-Fi and other onboard tools are in good working order,” she continues.

 

Operations Centre

Following the completion of the planning process - the data is transferred electronically over to their live dispatch personnel, in the 24/7 staffed operations centre. These dedicated individuals manage the day to day field operations and last minute adjustments of all their operators and equipment. This task is of extreme importance and ensures that each operator is provided with necessary information and direction to execute the work impeccably. Through Diversified’s computerized dispatch, all adjustments, and changes are tracked and managed in real time.

“Assisting the dispatchers is a team of base controllers who help with the daily operations through ensuring drivers report to work in a timely fashion, ensuring that each driver is fit for the day’s duties and providing information to the drivers to ensure they start their journey in a timely manner. Once all this has been taken care of these individuals provide the necessary administrative support to our passengers, the drivers, and clients.”

Schedulers then assign drivers and buses to trips - the trips are scheduled 48 hours in advance. This information is automatically sent wirelessly to onboard the Mobile Display Terminals (known as MDTs) on the coaches, providing drivers with specific trip details and also integrates with our unique passenger tools to provide real time bus arrival time information. These include our online passenger portal and the Diversified mobile app – MyBusRoute.

Speaking of drivers, Diversified’s motor coach operators are the company’s ‘ambassadors on the road’ and are selected because they are the best in the industry. They pride themselves in gaining a thorough knowledge of all facets of their clients’ operational and safety requirements. After an intense and detailed training program, the operators are prepared to focus on safety and customer service. The typical job duties consist of split shift-work of which much is completed in three to four-hour time blocks.

 “To meet Alberta Provincial regulations, every six months a thorough inspection (CVIP) of all safety related items and the braking system are conducted. Diversified organizes these inspections to coincide with one of our other Preventive Maintenance (PM) inspections so as to avoid unnecessary downtime. All wheels are inspected and removed as necessary; brake components and steering systems are inspected, adjusted and lubricated where necessary. Wheel bearing adjustment is inspected; all hoses and lines are checked and replaced as necessary. The heating systems are checked and filters cleaned. Emergency exits and hatches are checked and lubricated for ease of operation, emergency equipment is checked and signed off, and tire tread depth is checked and recorded. The vehicle is then road tested.”

 

Drivers

Diversified’s motor coach operators pride themselves in gaining a thorough knowledge of all facets of their clients’ operational requirements. After an intense and detailed training program, the operators are prepared to focus on transporting their client’s passengers to and from job sites on pre-established routes. The typical job duties consist of split shift work of which much is

Once all the details are in place, service delivery is executed on a daily basis. Each day, Diversified drivers come to work and confirm their arrival by checking into Diversified’s customized Check-In Terminals in the Operations Centre. Once they have checked in, their work assignments including route details and GPS mapping, are transferred wireless to the MDTs on their coaches. The drivers then proceed to their vehicles where they conduct a complete inspection of the unit for passenger comfort and safety. Then they log onto the MDTs, ensuring dispatch is aware of their location and they are ready to enter important information during their trip, including passenger counts. Dispatchers then send off buses and drivers.

Meanwhile, Diversified’s Operations Centre team is on duty when drivers are on the road to ensure any issues are resolved quickly, often long before the bus reaches the first bus stop.  Monitoring Diversified’s web-based Dispatch Portal allows the dispatchers to see where all buses are at any time during their trip. It also provides additional information, such as how many people are on the bus and at what speed the vehicle is travelling.

The drivers meet their passengers at designated pick up locations throughout Fort McMurray. They proceed to their destination, dropping off passengers that are reporting for work and often picking up workers who are returning home at the end of their work day.  Each driver typically operates this same route for both AM and PM shifts.

At the end of a driver’s shift, they log out of the MDT, conduct a final check of the equipment to ensure it is ready for the next trip, proceed to our state-of-the-art wash bay facility where the vehicle is washed for passenger comfort and continue to our Operations Centre where they ‘check out’ using the Check-In Terminals.  From there, all data from the shift is transmitted electronically to our Finance department enabling them to both bill clients and pay drivers seamlessly. This process is actually quite amazing – no paper changes hands, everything is digital!

When the first drop of oil was taken from the ground over 50 years ago, Diversified was there and the company continues to be a strong part of the Fort McMurray community and the industry leader in the employee transportation sector. 

Through innovation and leading edge technology Diversified is focused on supporting client requirements and exceeding passenger expectations with a focus on exceptional customer service.

Mark Hannah, Vice President, Employee Transportation at Diversified sums it up perfectly, “Our goal is to provide exceptional value to our clients while providing a positive ridership experience and we have a terrific group of employees who make this goal a reality every day.”

 

Diversified Fast Facts:

  • Total number of passengers transferred per year: 4.8 million
  • Total kilometers travelled annually: 26.6 million
  • Total kilometers travelled daily: 73,000
  • Total kilometers Diversified travels daily is equivalent to 1.8 trips around the earth every day
KIRAN MALIK-KHAN

Kiran Malik-Khan is the Director of Stakeholder Relations for The United Way of Fort McMurray. She is a freelance journalist, a communications professional, and a poet. She loves sharing stories about unique people, events, and organizations. Kiran is the co-founder and volunteer public relations director for NorthWord magazine, Fort McMurray's first and only literary magazine. She is also the President/Co-founder of World Hijab Day Fort McMurray. A proud Pakistani-Canadian who grew up in New Jersey, she is a fierce advocate of Fort McMurray, multiculturalism, women's rights, and equality for all. Got a story nobody is telling? Send her ideas: DM and follow on Twitter @KiranMK0822.

Website: twitter.com/kiranmk0822

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