Pictured above: It's bid day! First stop: check in.
Coach Operator "shake-ups" are held four times a year to give drivers an opportunity to drive different routes and "shake up" their work routine. It's a simple concept that requires a lot of work to execute.
After reviewing all of the service that must be provided each Monday-Friday, each Saturday, and each Sunday, the work is divided into "run cards" that create the least likelihood of overtime and the fewest number of split shifts.
The run cards are printed on actual cards, detailing a group of trips a driver might drive on a given day. The cards are printed on different colors that signify whether the work listed is for driving Monday-Friday, on Saturday, or on Sunday.
To decide who gets to drive which runs, Coach Operators bid on them in order of seniority -- a process which, in the best of times, involves hundreds of people and a whole lot of work.
"I would compare it to a movie production or a play," says Transportation Assistant Manager Josh Gutierrez. "There are lots of pieces and practices, a couple of days of performances, and then it's over."
Bids are held on weekends; drivers are scheduled a specific time slot according to their seniority. During that time, they come in and review the run cards which are displayed on a wall (or a designated proxy does this for them). The driver chooses their desired work from whatever is still available and confirms their choice with an union representative. Finally, a supervisor enters the information into the software system that keeps track of it all, and the process is complete.
Pictured above: Board room is ready for the bid
Normally, the bid atmosphere is boisterous; coach operators come early to review available run cards, often bringing their families. The operations building is full of people downstairs waiting and chatting and eating, with people upstairs reviewing then choosing run cards.
In 2020, COVID-19 changed everything.
Bids are now held in the administration building, with run cards taped to the wall of the board room. Families do not accompany the operators, and only five operators are allowed in the room at a time. One door is designated as entrance-only and one as exit-only, to maintain a one-way flow of traffic.
"It's a lot quieter now," says Josh.
An unusual extra bid was held in June to determine work for the current schedule, which provides about 80% of pre-COVID service. The most recent bid was held Aug. 15-16, in advance of the September service change and shake-up, which will bring service to about 85% of pre-COVID levels.
It's a complicated process that ensures efficient staffing, and Coach Operators appreciate the opportunity to change their routines and meet new customers.
"It takes good communication and lots of collaboration," says Josh. "A good team makes all the difference."