If it were possible to drive completely around the earth at the equator, it would take 40 trips around the planet to reach 1 million miles. This would take an average Washington driver nearly 150 years. Now, imagine doing that without being responsible for one accident!
The National Safety Council sets the strict standard for a Million Mile Award, and for coach operators at Community Transit it takes about 12.5 years of full-time driving without a preventable accident to earn it.
Community Transit has 75 Million Mile Drivers (MMD) currently employed on the roads, which equates to 20 percent of our roughly 375 bus drivers. Over the years, Community Transit has awarded 166 drivers this designation.
What does it take to achieve this status? We reached out to some MMDs to ask what it’s like to reach this lofty accomplishment and what drives them.
Jon Elmgren started his career working in an office. “I loved riding Route 424 in my previous career in the insurance industry. I would read a book on the way to the office and rest my eyes on the trip home. What’s not to like about that?” He had great experiences as a bus passenger, and one day he decided to work toward his Commercial Drivers License (CDL) and join Community Transit.
Over a million miles later, he still loves his job and the stops along his route. “There’s a place in Edmonds where I turn the corner, and as I drive down Main Street, I take in the sights of the snow-capped Olympic Mountains. I’ve collected and dropped off agates at the beach on my breaks and seen birds of many colors and kinds along my route.
As rich as those experiences sound, Jon has come full circle, and says talking to his riders ranks among the most rewarding aspects of his job. “When it snows and passengers are happy to have the bus show up and keep them moving to their destinations, it gives me a true sense of purpose.
When asked what it takes to drive so many miles without an avoidable accident, MMD Gene King offered up some tips we can all learn from. “To avoid accidents, maintain good following distance and learn to read people and how they drive,” he said. He added that when making instant judgment calls, experience matters. “When you don’t have time to respond, you need to rely on your training and experience to react safely.” King joined Community Transit in 2001, after driving for a commuter company in the late 1990s. He credits his training instructor, Elaine Vail, for helping to create the foundation that makes him a safe and conscientious coach operator today.
For some families, earning the status of MMD is a multi-generation legacy. Diane Sasse is a
second-generation MMD, who now uses her talents as a schedule analyst for Community Transit. She started as a driver for 20 years before
moving into driving instruction and now into the Planning Department. Diane is proud of her
designation as a MMD, but she's even prouder of her late mother, Elaine Vail, who achieved the
more exclusive Two Million Mile Driver status. Elaine was one of only 27 drivers to achieve the
Two Million Mile Driver designation in the history of Community Transit.
All awardees receive a MMD jacket, plaque, certificate, pin, and a decal on a Community Transit bus with their name on it.
What else do MMDs have in common? Great experience and an unmatched perspective on the road. They can tell you about secret places only locals know, like a spot where local divers enter Puget Sound to visit an "underwater city" or people-watching at the pier where the ferries arrive and depart.
This week at Community Transit, we're celebrating our employees. We invite you to join us in thanking the coach operator on the bus you ride for their dedication to getting passengers where you want to be, safely and on time.