Insider Exclusive: Are We Telling or Asking?

Insider Exclusive: Are We Telling or Asking?

Small Group Safety Meetings give front-line employees an opportunity to be heard

By Stephen Evans

This time of year is a whirlwind of back-to-back industry, government, insurance, and travel gatherings. We’ve learned about new regulations, training, emerging technologies, crash investigations, record-keeping, performance-monitoring, recruitment, health and medical issues, insurance concerns, FMCSA standards, social media communications, enhanced security procedures, and more. In short, we’ve had a complete A–Z overview of bus industry issues.

So, you would think by now we should be getting really good at this stuff. There’s just one problem: By all accounts, even the best of us are still having way too many fixed-object collisions.

Maybe we are spending too much time telling, and not enough time asking. Maybe the industry group we should have been meeting with and listening to all along was our own front-line drivers and shop employees. Maybe they are the ones who really know what is going on, know what needs to be fixed, and how to fix it.

At Pacific Western, we thought that maybe it would be a good idea to occasionally stop talking and instead just listen.

A little over a year ago, we created a regular forum where front-line workers can tell us what is and isn’t working. They tell us why it is we are having certain problems. And they develop real-world suggestions on how to make things run more smoothly. We call these “Small Group Safety Meetings”—SGSM.

The criteria for these quick meetings are:

  • Safety is the main focus.
  • There are no fewer than three and no more than 12 attendees consisting of bus drivers and/or shop staff.
  • At least 15 minutes in length.
  • Led by a front-line supervisor whose only role is to identify a particular topic of concern and then encourage the group to discuss and workshop.
  • Informal minutes are kept to capture suggestions for follow-up.

After one year, we found a strong correlation—the branches that hold more of these SGSM’s have fewer accidents. In other words, the more we listen to our front-line employees, the better we do things. Go figure!

Using the SGSM approach has helped us listen to the folks who live where the rubber meets the road. And we are better for it.

Stephen Evans is immediate past chair of BISC.

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
Email: .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)