Hey everyone, I know its been a while since my last post. Since I decided to become an extra board operator I haven’t had much time to do much more than work or sleep. This also happens to be the topic of my new post; the life of an extra board operator.
Unless you have worked in transportation or you are a transit nerd, you probably have never even heard of an extra board operator. A quick definition of what an extra board operator is, an extra board operator is an “on-call” bus operator. Now this doesn’t mean that there are bus operators sitting at home with pagers waiting for them to go off like a doctor. Instead there is a pool of operators that sit at base waiting for work to come open. This can happen in a few different ways. An operator misses their report time so an extra board driver has to cover that piece of work. An operator schedules a day off in advance. Their piece of work still has to be filled so an extra board operator is selected in advance to cover that piece of work. During the bidding process some work wasn’t awarded to anyone so each day those pieces of work have to be filled and dispatch calls on the extra board to fill it. Each day extra board operators are doing something different.
The life of an extra board operator can be a stressful one at times. You don’t know when you are going to report the next day until your day is done, and sometimes you don’t know when you day will be finished. Not only do you drive routes, you also receive what are called “standbys.” A standby is a period of time when you sit at base waiting for work to come available. An operator can spend their entire shift doing nothing but standbys. Naturally all of these factors combined can make it rather difficult to make plans to do anything but work and sleep, hence the large gap since my last posting.
One of the more stressful parts of the extra board is having to know everyone route in the system. When you are called to do a piece of work you have no idea what route(s) you will need to do until you get to the window. For example I have a total of 5 different routes that I have to do today alone and I have to know each one of them as well as the detours, if any, are on them. Equally stressful can be the lack of sleep and the lack of a steady sleep schedule. For instance, DOT requires that transit authorities give their operators a minimum of 8 hours rest time between shifts. This doesn’t include commute time from work to home and back again. A good example is my schedule last night ended at 10:47pm and I have to report again the next day at 06:53am. If you do the math that is 8hours and 6minutes from the time I signed out to the time I have to clock back in this morning for my work, which by the way is a 12 hour day. Naturally this makes creating any of kind of a schedule next to impossible unless you have a crystal ball and can predict when you will be going in again each and everyday a week in advance.
Now there are some pluses to the extra board, depending on how you look at them. The way HARToperates is that the extra board has first dibs on overtime. This means that you can rack up some serious hours and make a nice fat check in two weeks if your lucky. Equally awesome is that at HART if you don’t physically work 40 hours in a pay week and you showed up for each of your report times without issue then you will still receive pay for 40 hours. I don’t know any other job where that happens, unless you are a salary employee, and chances are you will still work over 40 hours anyway. One of the nicer things about the extra board is that you do something different daily. You don’t have the same routes the same day each week. For a guy like me who gets bored with monotony this is a big plus.
Well I hope this has shed some light on a rather unknown part of how a transit agencies functions and also explains why I’ve been so dormant. Keep checking back for new posts to come or just subscribe to get email updates about new posts. Time for me to get my coffee and get this day started.