Before our coach operators get on the road and provide bus trips to more than 11 million passengers every year, they must undergo a vigorous training process that prepares them for life behind the wheel. Senior Fleet Safety and Training Instructor Kimberly Perkins has taught new Omnitrans drivers for 14 years and consistently provides the highest level of training possible to set up our drivers for success.
Despite recent staffing challenges in the training team and her other professional obligations, Kim’s quality of work has not faltered. Because of her diligence and commitment to the safety and training of our drivers, the Board of Directors proudly recognize Kim as the Employee of the Quarter for her achievements and contributions during July-September 2019.
“We have a lot of good people here at Omnitrans, so I was very excited to receive the award,” says Kim. “I’ve been blessed with a great career here, so it feels rewarding to be recognized.”
Kim joined the Omnitrans team 24 years ago as a Coach Operator, after driving students on school buses and helping train new drivers there part-time. In search of a better career opportunity to benefit her and her family, Kim took a slight temporary pay cut in exchange for a more promising career outlook at Omnitrans.
After only two years of driving, Kim became a Coach Operator Instructor, guiding fellow new drivers and helping them acclimate to operating a 40-foot coach in the streets of the San Bernardino Valley. Six years later, she officially joined the training department in her current role when the opportunity arose.
“When I was a Coach Operator Instructor for new drivers, people said to me ‘Kim, I still hear your voice in my head. I can hear all the things you taught me,’” she says. “If you want someone to retain knowledge, you need to repeat it to them, and a lot of those people are still working here today. That’s one of the things that was satisfying and motivated me to become an instructor.”
Back in high school, Kim took elective classes which allowed her to serve as a teacher’s aide in classrooms ranging from pre-school to fifth grade. She aspired to become a teacher when she grew up, so it is not startling that training and instruction is something that comes naturally to Kim.
This year, the training section has faced staffing challenges as people have retired or taken long-term leaves for other reasons. The workload was backed up and divided among fewer staff members, making for a less than ideal situation. However, the training team has managed to make it work and overcome the obstacles by exemplifying teamwork.
“We are a great team and work very well together,” says Kim of her colleagues. “I’m a senior trainer, and although I have helped train a lot of our staff, they’ve taught me some things as well. You can’t say you know it all, because you don’t. We all learn from each other and help each other out when needed.”
In addition to Kim’s everyday duties, she also manages the annual safety awards, which recognize our Million Mile and Two Million Mile Club drivers’ safety records. Tracking over 400 coach operators for eligibility every year is no easy task, but it is a project Kim looks forward to each spring as it recognizes the fruits of her department’s labor.
Additionally, Kim is heavily involved in the Roadeo, a bus obstacle course competition that puts drivers’ skills and knowledge to the test. The Roadeo is held annually at the local level among Omnitrans drivers, with the winner advancing to compete regionally among Southern California agencies, and finally, at the international level. Kim is our internal Roadeo expert and represents Omnitrans on the international Roadeo committee.
As our Roadeo liaison, Kim has cultivated mutual agency partnerships over the years. Every Saturday this upcoming March, Kim will be volunteering her own time at a local Roadeo. Kim values the importance of fostering goodwill with our peer agencies, because when we host our own Roadeo, we rely on our peers to help judge our competition. For Kim, however, California is not the limit.
“I wanted to take this all the way and see the end stage of the Roadeo journey,” says Kim. “I have helped drivers train for the local and regional competitions, and I really wanted to see our competitor take it to the international level. When Coach Operator Benito Zavalza won 2nd place in 2016, it felt like a win for all of us. It was amazing!”
This past May, Kim had the opportunity to travel to Kentucky for the international Roadeo, where Omnitrans received two APTA Bus Safety & Security Excellence Gold Awards. Her sense of pride in Omnitrans was strengthened by receiving such a recognition on a national platform. “We work so hard, and in those moments, you really feel everyone’s hard work pay off,” she says.
Kim is looking forward to retirement in the coming years but reflects fondly on a successful career at her dream job. “Of my very first class of trainees in 2005, there are six drivers still with us,” she recalls. “When they reached their 10-year anniversary, they went out as a class and invited me. We celebrated their milestone and they presented me with a gift. I thought that was so nice!”
“I love working here,” she says proudly. “Although my teaching aspirations had to change along the way, this job allowed me the opportunity to do exactly what I wanted to do all along.”