Some of you may remember the snow that we had a while ago. I was one of the fortunate drivers that had to go out in it and manhandle a bus through the ice and snow and it was a very interesting experience.
My evening (oh yeah it was the night duty as well how wonderful (!)) started out pretty badly with my bus arriving on time but going the wrong way. It was heading for the outer terminal point and I was supposed to take over heading to the inner terminal. Great already over an hour late and to add to everything it started to snow again. Ah well I suppose I had better head off. Having said that getting to the bus was a job in itself and I almost fell over several times. Once safely in it was time to tackle the nightmare roads.
The going was pretty tough. All of the major roads that I use were clogged solid with snow and traffic so it was stop start all the way. Or perhaps I should say it was slide… slide some more stop spin wheels spin wheels some more lurch forward. It was not good. Everyone was sliding around and no-one seemed to understand what was going on. In the middle of all this chaos I had to somehow keep my bus on the road and manage to safely transport the passengers to their destination. One of our double deckers weighs in at 15 tons WITHOUT passengers. The average family car weighs in at just over 1 ton so my bus without passengers weighs 15 times as much. With a full load it can top the scales at over 20 tons. That’s a lot of inertia once it’s got going.
So there I am with my 15+ ton bus watching the car drivers slide all over the place and I’m sitting there thinking “oh god” my training did not cover driving on snow at all. I had a little experience in cars but this was totally different. If this thing got into a slide there was not a lot that I could do to stop it.
All was going very well the major roads, although jammed solid with traffic were ok if a little slippery and then I hit my first hill! Oh boy was it a problem for the cars. They were spinning up their wheels like crazy and only just managing to get up it. Fortunately there was a stop just before the start so I was able to take a few moments and think how I was going to tackle the hill. The problem with the bus was I needed to keep it in a low gear for the hill but it would automatically change up at a set speed, so I just had to keep on and off the throttle and using the kick-down as much as possible to keep the revs high and stop the wheels from spinning. And away I slid. It was hard work and the engine did not thank me at all for it but I made it up the hill. Now the only problem now was I had to get down the other side without hitting anything or anyone and the road was curved with very high kirb stones on it. Usually I would just let the bus roll down the hill and keep it under control by gently touching the brakes when needed. This time was much different as I knew that when I touched the brakes I would have little or no steering control and there was a very high chance of the wheels locking up on me which would send me straight to the scene of the accident. As I very tentatively started my way down the hill I watched a HGV trying to work its way up the other side and saw its wheels spinning and the trailer not behaving at all. It almost jackknifed and the look on the drivers face is not one that I will forget in a while. It is one of almost sheer terror.
I was by now almost half way down the hill and approaching the corner and knew that I would have to slow right down or I would never make it. I gently touched the brakes, the anti-lock system started working overtime the pedal vibrating like crazy and then I felt it. The bus lost traction, the wheels locked up and I started to slide. The back end went first starting to slide out to the right straight into the path of the oncoming traffic. I did what every driving manual will tell you to do and steered into the slide. I caught it and the bus was back straight and on the correct side of the road but still heading towards the corner. I tried again and this time the wheels locked and I slid in a straight line. Better but not what I wanted. The third time I didn’t give the ABS time to react I just pumped the brake pedal with my foot and it worked I slowed down and just made the corner my wheels just grazing the kirb. It was not the best experience in the world but one I will always remember. Having tackled the worst hill on my route I felt prepared for the rest and applied the same tactics to those and just about manages to get through it all. All the while the radio was crackling with messages that roads were closed and there were lots of accidents and people leaving their cars behind. Eventually it got to the point where we were informed that the management had called an emergency meeting to decide if the services needed to be recalled back to garage.
Sadly by the time they had got to the office the snow was already starting to melt and it was getting a lot easier to drive along the main roads so the word came back down that we were to be careful and use our heads when negotiating the trickier sections of road. So all I had to do now was to get to the terminal point and turn around and go back. I did eventually get there. 2 ½ hours late though. I was so late I was 5 mins early for the NEXT run. The run back wasn’t too bad as all the traffic had cleared a route and the snow had started to turn into slush. I did have to modify the route slightly to avoid a couple of bad side roads but I told control about it and didn’t miss too much. It was what I would call an interesting evenings driving and one I hope never to repeat.
Leave a Comment
No comments yet.