Talking to Myself – Part 1: Commentary Driving


Commentary Driving is used to demonstrate understanding and knowledge – typically demonstrated by Train Drivers during an assessment. Commentary Driving is not mandatory. Risk Triggered Commentary (RTC) is used when Train Drivers encounter situations where there is an increased risk of an operational incident.

Commentary Driving

Commentary Driving is about giving yourself a running commentary, whilst driving, of everything you are doing and why you are doing it. It is basically voicing all those things you would normally do and think about while driving.

For example: ‘Taking Power Notch 2 to counteract the uphill gradient just ahead of this signal.’

Commentary Driving would be useful for:

– Refreshing your short term memory. This is particularly useful when multi-tasking to ensure several pieces of key information can be remembered and acted on accordingly.

– Raising your concentration levels should they begin to dip at the end of a long shift, or if the cab is very warm, for example.

– Safely getting a train out of service which is being worked by a Train Driver because of defective on-train equipment such as ATP.

– Assessments, as it allows your assessor to ‘get inside your head’ and find out not just what you are doing, but also why you are doing it.

– Someone who has become practiced in the technique will give the assessor excellent evidence regarding their professionalism not only in regard to operation of the train, but also their route knowledge. The technique allows you to display competence at both levels – not only the ‘what you must do’ but also the ‘why you must do it’. Or ‘underpinning knowledge’ regarding the task.

How to do it:

Start off slowly and build it up. If you start when approaching a braking point for a station, for instance, then talk yourself through it – where you are going to brake, what brake step you are in, the planned stopping point in the platform, which side your platform is on, any risks at the platform, your speed progress from initial braking point to stopping – and add in as much other information you deem relevant. Keep up your commentary until your train has come to stand.

Each time you try it, vary the location and build up the length of time you commentate. Depending on the location, the amount of information you add in will vary. It is not about how much time you spend commentating, but the relevant information you can get into your commentary.

There are risks involved when using Commentary Driving. Whilst using running commentary is accepted good practice as identified through the rail industry, it does have the ability to act as a distraction if it is overused. Train Drivers should not use it for their entire shifts, but it is useful to use in targeted bursts during instances mentioned.

Always stop your commentary if it is causing a distraction to you.

It must not be mistaken and used as Risk Triggered Commentary (RTC), which is covered in the next blog.


3 thoughts on “Talking to Myself – Part 1: Commentary Driving

  1. Jade …it funny but in a sense all drivers and even yard officials do this without knowing… you have gone just one step more… to voice your thought patten.
    I remember how before I started shunt at Marikana … I use to just clear my mind,,,, and see the work … or if you want to call it the “plan” on how to do the “work” …but sometimes you lose track of time and space and turn the points before the move is complete … voicing your plan will ad one more layer of conceance…(giving you one more “fail safe” to fallback on)
    It sound strange but the last fatality at Thabazimby would have never happened if the employee has used you technique
    If you dont understand what I am saying … this is how I explain it in class

    Situation awareness is the perception of environmental elements with respect to time and/or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event. It is also a field of study concerned with perception of the environment critical to decision-makers in complex, dynamic areas from aviation, air traffic control, ship navigation, power plant operations, military command and control, and emergency services such as fire fighting and policing; to more ordinary but nevertheless complex tasks such as driving an automobile or bicycle.

    Situation awareness (sa) involves being aware of what is happening in the vicinity, in order to understand how information, events, and one’s own actions will impact goals and objectives, both immediately and in the near future.

    Complicated statement … Just to explain a simple concept

    Mind and feet … At the same time at the same place!

    • Thanks for that Smitie! In my next blog on the subject, I also make mention that it is wildly used in aviation and shipping industries – thanks for the comment!

  2. On MTR they have a similar system called “fingering” where the train driver points to controls or displays in a learned sequence (sometimes vocalising, though not always). It is a highly effective means of assisting operators / drivers to recall and verify safety critical operating procedures.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s