Monday, 5 August 2013

Shot in the Foot

There’s a 23-year-old Derby mother of three who wants vengeance. She took a photograph of a somewhat unconventional driving position and then ran to the local newspaper when she didn’t get what she wanted from Arriva Midlands. The paper, of course, smelt a story.

Read the woman’s quote carefully,
“I took a photo of him with his leg up on my phone…”

First, let’s tackle the photo. If this allegation is correct—and the Arriva spokesman in the press seems to think it is—if the driver were one of mine, I’d be unhappy and not just because of the reputational risk such a photo poses to an operator. Modern buses may be much easier to drive than those of yore. But that in no way excuses a pose that contravenes accepted standards and common sense. It’s all down to reaction time in the event of an issue or incident arising.

And, just like balancing one arm of the cash tray or dangling the other out the cab window (not, I trust at the same time), it offers little reassurance to passengers when they see this sort of thing. Although commenters in the past have not always agreed, the driver hand dangling on the cash tray is one of my own pet hates.

Now then, there’s the whole issue of what the woman wants. She did exactly the right thing in contacting the operator—but, two days later, she enquired about the specific action taken.

The operator wouldn’t say (hence her trip to the press). It’s actually not for her to know. The driver disciplinary process is necessarily personal and confidential. Whatever action the operator takes, once published, it cannot win. If the operator’s seen as too harsh, he is brandished a tyrant. If too lenient, the operator condones unsafe practices. In truth, as many people will swing one way as the other. Ultimately, the operator suffers.

And neither should an operator ever be left in a position where a driver can be the subject of a witch-hunt or scapegoat. The exact outcome will, of course, depend upon the level of misconduct, the driver’s record, his attitude, his willingness to accept it was wrong, the skill of his union rep and other factors. In the same way, you trust a supermarket when you make a complaint; you need to trust an operator. If you notice a smoky vehicle and phone VOSA, VOSA will never tell you the result. An operator like Arriva will have systems and procedures for this sort of thing. And they can always be subject to appeal in any case. So, it’s unlikely that, after two days, Arriva could’ve told the woman anything, anyway.

There have often been passengers or the public who have reached me who are not happy with a particular driver. Usually, invariably actually, they comment upon how they do not want to get the driver into too much trouble—usually dismissal—but they feel that they need to report something anyway. I reassure them by saying that we have to do what we have to do and that we have systems and procedures to follow. My view is that passengers probably do want some sort of punitive action as long as it falls short of the ultimate sanction.

I wonder what the Derby mother really wants.

(There were over 60 comments on the web about this issue. My browser would let me see just 10 of them).

i Derby Telegraph story


Anonymous said...

A typical industry response in this article. The bus is being driven in a dangerous manner. The woman quite rightly complained and she expected action to be taken. The bus company did not respond and refused to disclose what action was taken. I suspect nothing. She quite rightly then escalated it

It is not acceptable to try to claim it is personal and they do no need to say. It affects public safety and the public have a RIGHT to know that proper action is taken clearly in this case it was not

Anonymous said...

The Derby mother wants to know that something has been done. The initial waffling response of the bus company probably made her think it was just being swept under the carpet and forgotten about.

dwarfer1979 said...

Even if the operator were inclined to give a full breakdown of what disciplinary action had been taken 2 days is not enough time for it to be taken - and since the lady undoubtably was talking to customer service they wouldn't know what stage it was in anyway. The basic process is the complaint is taken and processed (normally day 1 though possibly since this is a serious case it may be rushed through), the driver is identified (day 2 - for a less serious case he may be asked about the incident at the end of his day for something more serious like this it would need to be done formally), a formal interview needs to be arranged (day 3 or 4 as the driver needs to be given notice of this and a union rep needs to be arranged) once the interview has been completed a decision is on the disciplinary award which is communicated to the driver & then to the people who deal with the complaints. The result of the investigation is then communicated to the customer by the agreed means (post or e-mail is normal - day 5 or 6). This timescale of course would be varied if the driver is not working on any day or for any period and on the severity of the incident (something like this would be jumped to the top of a queue delaying less serious complaints for instance). The driver may appeal etc so the whole process can be spread out over a couple of weeks before everything is sorted.

There are a number of reasons why any employer cannot disclose the precise disciplinary award for any particularly instance including employment law and any union agreements on the disciplinary procedures. Just imagine if the driver were sacked over this incident (perfectly possible if he had a bit of a history) and then found out that the customer had been informed before he had been interviewed that such an a decision would be made (or that he had been suspended etc) - he would have grounds for unfair dismissal etc and no one benefits. All businesses have a set procedure laid out for employee discipline and they must be followed to the letter otherwise you can't discipline any of your staff without losing any appeal made to any authority.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 8.16 has probably hit the nail on the head. The trouble with big groups is that local managers feel they have to trot the 'approved by head office' standard response for fear of disciplinary action if they show any empathy for the woman's distress.

I heard a tale that Arriva officers. allegedly, have had to resign in the past for talking to the press in a style not approved by head office!

There are ways and means of diffusing someone's anger, showing empathy and making them feel that something is being done. I think the platitude at the end of the officer's statement didn't exactly help, but presumably some corporate affairs person tells them to do that.

To deal with any complaint, you really have to see the problem from the complainant's point of view every bit as much as your own. Only then can you begin to do something about it.

Anonymous said...

I thought driving with left hand/arm on the cash tray was standard practice? As is playing with the ticket machine or counting out money while driving.

plcd1 said...

I'm sorry but I'm struggling to see what the issue is here. The article just strikes me as yet another example of "oh think of the children" hysteria. Was anyone hurt? No. Did the bus crash? No. Do Arriva route 37 buses routinely crash? No.

This lady normally goes by car - does she or her husband drive perfectly? Does she vet the driving standards, competence and practice of everyone else out on the road when she gets in her car? No because it's impossible. She lives with the risk or, more likely, doesn't even recognise that there is a risk of an accident. Does she imagine somehow that buses need to be driven using both feet like a car?

This is all blown out of proportion as a result of what looks like poor perception and understanding on her part. She has equally unrealistic expectations about the internal HR processes - as said above these processes are *internal* and she has no right to know the result. Goodness knows how she'd cope with some of the antics I've been on the receiving end of as a photographer. This includes drivers driving vehicles while pulling down sun blinds or holding plasticated time cards over their eyes. I would think not being able to see where you are going probably does count as dangerous.

I hate these "out of all proportion" local rag stories. They might as well report children tripping over paving stones or cats climbing trees.

Anonymous said...

The person is a professional driver of a public service vehicle,and I doubt he was trained to drive in that fashion!

Whilst local papers love this sort of story,if he had driven in the manner he knows he should,there would be no silly stories like this.

No doubt the CCTV will be shown to him,and some retraining undertaken,unless this is added to any previous warnings,in which case he may well 'leave' and no doubt join the nearest local independent short of drivers.Sad but true.

Anonymous said...

Quote I'm sorry but I'm struggling to see what the issue is here. The article just strikes me as yet another example of "oh think of the children" hysteria. Was anyone hurt? No. Did the bus crash? No. Do Arriva route 37 buses routinely crash? No."

Are you for real. You think that this manner of driving is acceptable?

The drive is besides not complying with PSV legislation but is also committing a road traffic offence

Safety does not appear to be high on the agenda with bus companies now as can be seen by the frequent accidents. De roofing double deckers is common place now

Anonymous said...

The keyboard warriors are out in force this morning.

Firstly, let's get things into perspective. The photo suggests that the driver has acted in a way that is wholly unacceptable. Assuming that the driver is guilty, then any punishment that comes his way is deserved, as long as it is proportionate.

Then you have the response of Arriva. As Dwarfer rightly points out, there has to be a due process in disciplinary procedures, for both legal and ethical reasons. You don't have kangaroo courts - there are often procedures (that vary across firms as a result of differing TCEs - Arriva Midlands may have different ones enshrined in drivers employment contracts from Derby Blue Bus, Midland Fox, Stevensons, Mid Red North). The driver must have the allegation put to him (was he on holiday/rest day the following day?) and then be suspended followed by a second hearing. At both he will be allowed representation so that must also be factored in. Therefore, an outcome in two days is just not going to happen.

Instead, people like anon 08:16 would prefer to see summary justice handed out? The reality is that there is a due process - Arriva would've probably been better advised to state that they are following their disciplinary procedures and that they will update by x date.

As for anon 11:11 - what can you say about something so inaccurate? Drivers are well trained and accident rates are lower than before. Vehicles do occasionally get de-roofed but that has always occurred. I can think of locations that have always claimed roofs - Runcorn, Middlesbrough and Darlington all had them, and regularly. The fact that these places now have fewer deckers means it happens much LESS often. A quick equation for anon 11:11...

Opinion less evidence = rubbish

Anonymous said...

'I wonder what the Derby mother really wants', you put the question.

Little pieces of paper with the Queen on the back, that's what. With three kids at the age of 23, she sure needs 'em!

plcd1 said...

@ Anon 1111 - Yes I am real. I'm sorry but I just think this is all an over reaction. No one died, no one was hurt. OK the driver broke some rules. I think I can be confident in saying that thousands of people do not display best practice when driving motor vehicles on our roads - be they amateur or professional drivers. In a huge proportion of cases nothing happens as a result of that sloppiness.

The driver in this case will, probably, be subject to some sort of corrective action. Fine. Happens to people every day in all sorts of jobs. The world doesn't fall off its axis as a result.

Now can you please support your accusation that "safety does not appear to be high on the agenda of buses companies". Proof please?

"Frequent accidents" - what frequent accidents? Please point to some reliable comparative statistics? "Deroofing double deckers is now common place" - is it? On what basis? How many double deckers lose their roofs on an average day? What is the trend for the numbers of such events and is it rising or falling?

I am simply asking for a bit of rational assessment of the risk and what the "punishment" should be. I also think we should consider that people using cars are in a far more risky and dangerous environment than a bus given the relative fatality / accident rates for vehicle types.

As Busing said in his article - what is the complainant in this case really after? I doubt a rational, measured assessment of risk and fair treatment of the bus driver are anywhere near the top of her agenda. Some nice compensation and a public flogging of the driver are probably more what she has in mind given the "tone" of the newspaper article.

I look forward to seeing the source material to support your comments about bus safety and accidents.

Anonymous said...

Three kids at the age of 23, it would seem that it's not just the bus driver who's had trouble keeping his feet on the ground! LOL!!

I don't condone the driver's actions at all, far from it. But running to the newspapers after two days is a little bizarre.

plcd1 - I tend to agree with you. This is a non-story. She's reported it to Arriva and they will deal with it as they see fit. End of.

It just shows how short of stories and how lazy local newspapers are these days. No wonder so many are failing.

Ignore Anon at 11:11, you won't get any evidence - his posts only ever consist of grandiose, sweeping comments with no basis in fact whatsoever. Sad really.

Neil said...

"Safety does not appear to be high on the agenda with bus companies now as can be seen by the frequent accidents. De roofing double deckers is common place now"

If it's that commonplace, technology could prevent it - some sort of ultrasonic based device similar to parking sensors could sound an alarm.


Anonymous said...

The driver will get a warning, I'd imagine.
Depending on his "previous" it might be more.

Is the complainer entitled to know any of this in any detail? No. Full stop, end of.
I'd be horrified if I, as the driver in this instance, was having my personal discliplinary record doled out to all and sundry. It's called the Data Protection Act, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course, and that should have been explained to the lady. She should not have been told. "The matter will be dealt with under the company procedure policy," without being given any hint of what that policy is! That's simply good manners and shows good grace, and may have stopped her then going to the press and the thing being blown up out of all proportion.

Surely, by now, Arriva know jusy how the press love to criticise public transport when it goes awry!!

Anonymous said...

I don't think this is an isolated or rare event. One bus route I travel on regularly has a number of drivers who are "one-armed" - holding on to the cash tray in case it falls off, I suppose, the occasional foot-up driver as in the photo and the more usual foot down driver hurrying to get from A to B and never mind the passengers.
The majority of bus drivers, are, however good to excellent - with the most considerate being the lady drivers.

Anonymous said...

A bit of a non-story really - I quite agree with plcd1 comments.

The lady with the 3 kids probably has no idea how to drive a bus (although the driving style is admittedly very poor) and seems too impatient to wait for a proper, fair, investigation.

If the driver has a generally poor record then I'm sure Arriva may dismiss him or, otherwise, discipline and/or retrain him. So what ? - an everyday issue of no real interest to a newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the silly woman SAY something to the driver instead of taking a photo?

If a crash did happen don't worry I have a pic :<

What a stupid woman......

RC169 said...

The anon comments at 07:50 and 11:11 have the hallmarks of being trolls, so I doubt that you will get any worthwhile response from them.

"The operator wouldn’t say (hence her trip to the press). It’s actually not for her to know. The driver disciplinary process is necessarily personal and confidential."

"And neither should an operator ever be left in a position where a driver can be the subject of a witch-hunt or scapegoat."

Both statements absolutely correct, and illustrate quite clearly why complaints of this nature should never be dealt with on Facebook et al.

I am inclined to agree that a more thorough explanation of the disciplinary process would probably have been a good idea from Arriva's perspective. It wouldn't give any indication of what sanction, if any, was or would be applied - but a lengthy letter would probably go a long way to reassuring the woman that the issue was being taken seriously.

Anonymous said...

A saying before the days of newspapers being published on the internet was "Todays news, tomorrows 'fish and chip' wrappings" We all know the newspapers publish spectacular articles that will sell and bring in advertising space.
What the picture of the driver is saying to me is he does not give two hoots about his approach to the job and he cannot say he was shown how to drive with his foot up on the dashboard. Go to any city/town in this country and you will see the way the majority of staff in this industry portray them selves whether it be driving such as in this story, having a hand on the ticket machine, an arm on the cab window. But it does not stop here as you only have to look at the way some drivers dress (or don't) Sadly the industry seems to attract staff who show little respect for professionalism in their job.

Anonymous said...

What proof do we have that the vehicle was actually moving when this still image was taken ?

Anonymous said...

As a bus driver myself i think this is a non issue.I drive with one hand some times when the traffic is slow.Did this driver cause an accident or was driving dangerously no.What job does the woman do .If she is that concerned about her kids safety she should buy a car.What was the speed of the bus when the photo was taken.If bus companies took all the complaints they would not have any drivers left.

Anonymous said...

Is Anon @ 19:02 the same troll as earlier in the day?!

Observe vehicles on any road and regardless of the vehicle type you will see many many bad driving habits including driving one handed, no doubt because of the increase in power steering on modern vehicles.

Arriva's response is quite clumsy however how do we know they have not been subjected to selective editing/listening by the journalist? Arriva could have issued a detailed statement but its cut down to suit the slant they wanted to make.

Personally I'm more concerned about the driving standards exhibited by other road users such as taxis, white van men and cyclist couriers (all of them should be professional drivers) but its probably too difficult for the local rag to pin their actions on a high profile employer?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:14. Legend

Personally, I see why the customer is annoyed but sadly, like every industry, what I do to my staff (whether I pay them or throw things at them) is something between me and my staff. They have the right to be told off/cuddled/abused without a third party getting involved.

Anonymous said...

The problem was Arriva not giving a reassuring response - there are ways of closing a complaint to the satisfaction of a complainant without discussing what happens to the driver. The woman's reaction is not uncommon - there are many customers with similar expectations. Arriva's reaction to the complaint is not uncommon - there are many companies who just don't know how to close complaints - it has nothing to do with HR ~ it's all to do with PR.

Anonymous said...

Typical local rag just causing trouble.I once had a neighbour on benefits and she always asked me why me and my missus worked.One day she got on my bus and started mouthing off like we were at home.I just flipped and told her off in front of the other passengers i got everything off my chest.I have got my regular passengers they went straight to report her as being abusive as soon as they got off.She went in to report me.My supervisor was a picture as he had 5 people talking at once 4 on my side and that woman on her own.I never heard anything of the complaint.If i knew this woman i would never allow her on my bus.

Anonymous said...

The re4sponses of many here shows all that is wrong in the industry. A serious safety breach by the driver is treated in a cavalier so what type response with a what the hell has it got to do with the public

There needs to be a good clear out of the poor management in the industry. Look at this article itself "Vengefull"

A full enquiry should have been carried out and the outcome made public. This is what happens in almost every other industry. It is theses attitudes that result in the poor standards with in the industry

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 23:02

You are having a laugh right?

Perhaps next time you are issued a fixed penalty notice there should be a full public inquiry with the results published in the local rag?

Perhaps next time you screw up at work your boss should conduct a full inquiry and publish it the results online for all and sundry to see.

Would you be happy with that?

We don't know the full facts, the picture may well have been taken whilst the vehicle was stationary. Either way the local rag is no place for staff to be reprimanded in.

Anonymous said...

TBH I am not sure that the driver's foot was on the dashboard at all. The angle of view can be deceptive both to photographer and more so to camera.

Anonymous said...

If she reckons she knows the best and safest way to drive a bus, she's more than welcome to apply to the bus company for a job. More money in it than being a cleaner, for sure!

Frankfrog said...

Busing and earlier respondents may not realise that there was also an editorial on the subject in the Derby Telegraph. This can be found at .

The gist of this editorial is:
"We can hardly be inspired with confidence ... if such dodgy driving practices have been taking place.....customers who will want to know if there is a chance they will get this driver if they board an Arriva bus in future."

I think this is the nub of the matter. As someone, who is an occasional passenger on Arriva Derby, I want to know that I am not going to get someone driving in this manner in future. I agree that the newspaper reading public should not hear about the result of every disciplinary action, but we do want to know that dangerous practices are not condoned by the company.

In my opinion, Arriva should have said that they were still investigating this case, but that the situation reported was unacceptable, and that this message would be reinforced to staff. By the time that the disciplinary process was complete, the press would have forgotten about it.

Anonymous said...

Arriva hardly had much real opportunity to make a sensible, reasoned, comment - the woman had gone to the press within a day or two.

They should have just said that they will be looking into the matter and taking any necessary action.

It's not a serious safety issue, it's one of perception.

Anonymous said...

"Anon @ 23:02

You are having a laugh right?

Perhaps next time you are issued a fixed penalty notice there should be a full public inquiry with the results published in the local rag?

Perhaps next time you screw up at work your boss should conduct a full inquiry and publish it the results online for all and sundry to see.

Would you be happy with that?"

Mr Glum can't even spell "these", so he might be feeling the heat of inquiries against him quite often!

Anyway, I bet the lady complaining - and the majority of readers the local rag is trying to outrage - doesn't even know how many feet you need to drive a bus...

And I still say the best ever bit of bus driving I've ever seen was a driver easily recovering from a skid on ice, all with hand on the cash tray.

Anonymous said...

Academic theory on complaining behaviour gives three motivations:

(1) Voice - the woman wanted to make her views known.


(2) Exit - the woman was never going to use Arriva again and this was her parting shot.


(3) Negative word of mouth - the woman intended to damage Arriva's reputation by publicising the incident.

From limited experience of Arriva's complaint handling process (which for the south is all via Luton), they are far too slow to respond and the response when it is received is vague - a form letter cobbled together from stock paragraphs. Not very convincing that anything at all has been done.

This sort of thing compounds the problem.

Instead of dealing promptly and sympathetically with the complaint (irrespective of whether it was justified or not), and creating the opportunity to turn a complainer into an 'ambassador', poor processes makes matters worse.

Sadly, as with so many aspects of modern marketing, the bus industry (and not just Arriva) is in the stone age.

Comparisons with retail are overdone and not always appropriate, but inevitably, comparing the bus industry's handling of complaints with that of Marks & Spencer, Sainsburys etc do not show the former in a good light.

RC169 said...

Frankfrog said...

'The gist of this editorial is:
"We can hardly be inspired with confidence ... if such dodgy driving practices have been taking place."'

But how dangerous is it actually - if at all? One company I worked for had some Willowbrook-bodied Leopards with the driving seat set relatively far back, and I'm sure the drivers occasionally rested their left feet on the dash. It may look sloppy, but is it actually dangerous - as long as the driver's foot doesn't accidentally throw a few switches?

I suspect that the writer of the editorial in the Derby Telegraph doesn't really know what he/she is talking about! They also seem to have ignored the potential consequences of every individual's mistakes at work being aired in public.

For example, getting facts wrong in a newspaper slightly misquote the article in question:

"We can hardly be inspired with confidence ... if such dodgy writing practices have been taking place."

Anonymous said...

Don't think you'd pass the driving test with your foot up on the dash, or dangling out of the window.

Driving a vehicle as a profession and being responsible for the safety of your passengers requires an attitude of driving according to the rules and with both hands on the wheel and feet by or on the pedals.

It's not some casual 'petrol-head' "aren't I cool" posturing and seeing just how much you can get away with. Come on now!

Anonymous said...

I'm not condoning it for one minutes, there's no excuse, but the left foot on many buses isn't used for any form of control purpose.

It's a two-pedal job, right foot for throttle and brakes.

Left foot might just be used for steering adjustment (when first taking over the bus), occasionally for door controls, but often not a great deal else.

I recall many a front dash of Park Royal/Roe AN68s worn away where a left foot had been rested. Didn't do it myself, as not comfortable for me, but obvious it happened.

Neil said...

"From limited experience of Arriva's complaint handling process (which for the south is all via Luton), they are far too slow to respond and the response when it is received is vague - a form letter cobbled together from stock paragraphs. Not very convincing that anything at all has been done."

Any company that uses form letters - for any complaint related purpose whatsoever other than just acknowledging receipt and stating timescales for a full reply - is being grossly insulting towards the customer, IMO.

It's nice that those organisations using Twitter well allow those staff to provide genuine replies to the question showing they have been read and understood. But that should equally apply to a traditional letter. Someone needs to read the complaint, take responsibility for it from end to end, and write a suitable response showing the complaint has been understood, and the actions[1] taken.

[1] This need not breach confidentiality. "This will be dealt with through our internal disciplinary procedure" is perhaps a nice way of putting it - which doesn't itself prove that any action will be taken against a particular driver. "We will remind drivers not to do this" might also do - so long as they do do that!


Anonymous said...

Looks like a Wright bodied Volvo to me, in my experience vehicles Iv'e driven with that combination have nowhere to put the left foot.

Indeed vehicles with the door control on the floor its all too easy accidentally hit the door control at the most inopportune moment.

Because the right foot is naturally higher in order to operate the brakes and accelerator, the lack of support for the left foot can be a cause for discomfort.

Even when footrests are provided, when they are broke they tend not to get repaired.

Its not rocket science to design a cab that is ergonomic. Unfortunately all too often even in this day and age the drivers cab seems to be an after thought