Transit 101: Extra Board Operators

A Muni trolley bus operating Route 5 Fulton heads down Market Street. San Francisco is one of six North American cities still operating trolley buses (Vancouver, Seattle, Dayton, Philadelphia, and Boston are the other ones). Christopher MacKechnie

Transit 101: Extra Board Operators

The drivers who fill in for the regular drivers when they are on vacation or sick are called the extra board, the spare board, or similar sounding names. Although at some agencies there may be special runs that the extra board is assigned to do on a regular basis, at most agencies they do not know what work they will be doing until the day before they do it.

Extra board drivers differ from regular drivers in that they do a different piece of work each day, and start and end at different times each day.

Extra board drivers also often spend a significant period of time waiting at the garage in case they are needed - waiting in this manner is often called being "on show". Because of the uncertain times and runs, which are some of the top employment issues for bus drivers , the vast majority of extra board operators at a typical agency are drivers with low seniority. In fact, at some agencies newly hired drivers must begin by working the extra board. In other agencies, driver may pick the extra board at the bid instead of a regular run .

Method of Assigning Work

Extra board drivers are assigned a position from one to the total number of extra board drivers. There are two major ways of assigning work to the extra board.

In one, called a rotating board, extra board drivers do not come in around the same time every day. Instead, in a given work week an extra board driver will have their earliest shift the first day and gradually come in later until they end the work week with their latest shift on the last day.

The main advantage for the transit agency in operating this kind of board is that is saves money, as many union contracts require, in the case where a bus driver reports to work earlier today than he did yesterday, that the difference in start time be paid as overtime. In the other, called a fixed board, pieces are always assigned in the order of the original extra board position.

For example, extra board position one would always receive the first available open piece. In the fixed board, extra board drivers, especially those with really low or really high positions, will tend to come in at similar times every day.

Optimum Number of Extra Board Operators

Determining the optimum number of extra board operators is extremely important to the bottom line of an agency, especially if an extra board operator receives the same weekly hour guarantee - typically forty hours - as a regular driver does. While past experience is typically used, in reality it would take an actuary to have some semblance of accuracy in estimating on each given day just how many bus drivers will be absent. Sometimes an agency will be taken by surprise with higher than expected turnover and problems with recruitment . If you have too many extra board drivers, then it is likely that you will be paying employees to sit around the break room playing pool. On the other hand, if you have too few extra board drivers then you will likely have to pay overtime to ensure all scheduled buses are on the road. Although there have not been many studies on this issue, the studies that have been conducted have shown that the optimum number of extra board operators is equal to one-third of the total number of agency drivers.

For example, an agency with 600 drivers should aim for an extra board of around 200.

Extra Board Days Off

In addition to determining how many extra board operators to have, an agency also needs to decide how many extra board drivers should have each day off pair. Again, this determination is more of an art than science, apart from the obvious fact that the vast majority of extra board drivers will have Saturday and Sunday off due to their being much less service operated on the weekend. Since a higher than average number of workers call in sick or take vacation days on Monday and Friday versus Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, it holds that more extra board drivers should have Tuesday / Wednesday and Wednesday / Thursday off than Monday / Tuesday and Thursday / Friday.

Extra Board versus Regular Drivers in Operation

Only by regularly driving the same run at the same time every day can a driver expect to achieve maximum productivity through the acquisition of nuanced knowledge like how long a particular green light lasts and where to expect a wheelchair passenger. Because of this, extra board drivers are more likely to be late than the regular driver - and therefore, before schedulers adjust running times, they need to determine if an extra board or regular driver was driving a bus when it was running late. However, by working all runs and all routes at all periods of time the extra board driver obtains an excellent knowledge of the total transit network. I believe this knowledge would be a great asset for any extra board operator seeking career advancement by becoming a supervisor.  Due to their knowledge of the system, they make good choices for inclusion on any agency committee (about bus stops, schedules, or other similar items) that has transit coach operators as members.

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Your Citation
MacKechnie, Christopher. "Transit 101: Extra Board Operators." ThoughtCo, Nov. 14, 2015, MacKechnie, Christopher. (2015, November 14). Transit 101: Extra Board Operators. Retrieved from MacKechnie, Christopher. "Transit 101: Extra Board Operators." ThoughtCo. (accessed November 21, 2017).