The challenge facing GoTriangle Transit Trainer Demetrius Hyman in early May was daunting.
Even as the COVID-19 pandemic was spreading and GoTriangle service was reduced, the agency needed more bus operators. Hyman would have to find a way to train an incoming class of operators while ensuring every person followed new safety guidelines to restrict the spread of the new coronavirus.
Complicating matters, his co-worker, Gregory Langley – who manages the mounds of paperwork and scheduling required for training operators – was about to be on extended leave for three months to care for an elderly parent.
Quietly, Hyman plowed ahead, handling both jobs, and three months later, the fruits of his work emerged. On Aug. 18, the first class of operators to graduate during the pandemic celebrated with him at a ceremony at the Plaza Building.
Still wearing masks and staying 6 feet apart, they had earned their place behind the wheel and come through their classes with an appreciation for their teacher.
“He gave us excellent training,” said Audrey Gillson, one of the five graduating operators. “He’s just an all-around good guy, very patient, very understanding, willing to help you with whatever you needed help with. He just made sure that we got what we needed to be bus operators.”
Hyman joined GoTriangle 22 years ago as a bus operator, rising through the ranks to Operator III before becoming a trainer four years ago when Jimmy Price, GoTriangle’s Safety, Security and Training manager, hired him.
“He is passionate about his job,” Price says. “That’s why I hired him, because as a bus operator for over 20 years, I saw the passion that he had for driving and how operators, management and his peers looked up to him for his advice. So he was the perfect choice to come in and be the trainer. He’s a driven person.”
Hyman’s achievement in getting the five operators to graduation was remarkable, Price says.
“Greg [Langley] and D [Demetrius Hyman] are my training guys,” Price says. “But D has always had his sidekick, Greg, helping him to get things done. Those two are the dynamic duo. Once Greg gets all the paperwork done, they’re in class, they’re ready to go, and D is the one that normally takes them out and gets the one-on-one driving with them, helping them to develop good driving practices before they get released to Operations.”
Hyman says he managed double duty because he and Langley were familiar with each other’s jobs and because he knew the Transit Operations team had his back and would help him in any way he needed.
“Our team takes care of each other,” he says. “They’ve been a big help. All the managers said, ‘Hey, you need anything, let us know.’ But I paced myself and to try not to get myself overwhelmed, just to do one step at a time. Keep one foot in front of the other.”
Operators in training cover a lot of ground in GoTriangle’s eight-week training program. Whether they already have a commercial driver’s license or enter with a permit that allows GoTriangle to train them for a CDL, they enter a rigorous schedule of classroom learning, simulator training and on-the-road driving.
By the time they’ve graduated, they have encountered a range of dangers on the simulator from engine failure to tire blow-outs, accidents, rain, snow, sleet and night driving and have been coached to react safely. They know what paperwork they need to fill out if the bus has an accident or breakdown and how to communicate with dispatchers using codes. They have driven actual routes in Wake, Durham and Orange counties.
“It’s a totally different ballgame right now,” he says. “We went from just being around each other, shaking hands, doing work right beside each other to the point of now we are all spread out, talking with a mask.”
GoTriangle’s measures to lower the risk of spreading COVID-19 add a new layer to his duties, which he takes seriously. He personally screened students before class by taking their temperatures and asking COVID-19-related questions. He sanitized the rooms before and after students attended class and disinfected the simulator after each student used it. He ensured operators wore masks and were always 6 feet apart.
Langley, who returned to work in August, says that Hyman’s push for perfection coupled with his teaching instincts are what stood out when he first met him 20 years ago when they were both operators.
“He’s always been one person who is willing to help you learn,” he says. “He got involved in training, and he believes in doing things the right way. He doesn’t believe in doing short cuts. And he is a role model, not just for me, but for all the operators. That’s something he’s always done.”
-- Written by GoTriangle Internal Communications Specialist Odile Fredericks
Whether GoTriangle team members are operating a bus, planning the routes, working on carburetors or computers or getting the word out about all of the benefits of transit, each person plays a critical role in how well we serve our community. Join Demetrius at GoTriangle with a career that works for you. Learn more at gotriangle.org/careers.