Ask The Driver 23

 

Littlelaura (this one from son no.1 this eve, aged 11 3/4!) What cc is the engine size on your bus?

Yikes never been asked that before but have found out for you. A little bit of research later I have found that it is a 6 cylinder 8300cc along with a whole host of other totally useless information.

 

strix_auto Which shift do you prefer to be on, and why?

They all have good and bad points. The early morning ones I have to get up at around 4am but I am finished by noon at the latest. The “office hour” shift means that I get to sleep in a little bit but usually you have to deal with the afternoon rush and that can be worse than the morning one. The late night shift means that I get to sleep and have most of the day to do whatever I want to but I don’t get home until almost 1am. Of the three I like the early mornings. Most of the trouble makers don’t seem to get out until at least 11am so on that shift you don’t have to deal with them for too long.

 

Lizzzardbits Ads on sides of buses, any ever embarrass you, Make you laff, Go ‘huh’ Say ‘Right on!’ Make you wish you didn’t drive that bus that shift?

Some have mace me smile, the giant SpongeBob squarepants that was on some buses for a while with the numbers where his teeth should be. I am impressed with the whole bus adverts as I know how long they take to put on and the detail that goes into them. The only adverts that I hate having on my bus are the ones for female hygiene products


Route Training

Something that has surprised me over the course of this blog is that nobody has asked me how I learnt all the routes. Hopefully this post will give you a better understanding of a little part of the garage based training that we have to go through.

 

After a couple of days going through all the usual health and safety stuff I was assigned to several drivers on different routes to learn them over the course of a week. I had five days to learn about seven routes. Fortunately two of the routes were only slightly different so here was no problem there. All of the drivers had different ways of teaching me the route, from one who just told me to sit upstairs and forgot all about me to another that forced me to drive straight away. That had to be the most terrifying thing that I had to do, until I went out on my own but that is another post, I was assigned to learn the worst route in the garage and I hadn’t even been along some of the roads in my car let alone in a double decker bus. But here I was no idea where I was going and driving a type of bus that I had only passed my test in three days ago. So I had to contend with listening to the other driver telling me where to go and where the stops were, I was worried about hitting cars as the road in some places was only just wide enough for the bus. I also had to worry about staying on time as they don’t give you any more tie just because you are learning the route. I also shad to memorize the fare stages as that affected how much the passengers had to pay. Along with all of that I was trying to watch for road names and landmarks that would give me some idea of where I was.

Needless to say my first trip was a total disaster. I missed several stops as I didn’t know that they were there and had no clue when passengers asked me questions. I did my best to help them but it wasn’t enough for the other driver and he let me know that once we arrived at the terminal point. I explained to him that I was struggling with remembering the route while driving and that I would prefer it if I could just watch where we were going and make notes as we went along so that I could have something to refer to when I was out on my own. He didn’t like that idea one bit and started yelling at me to get back in the driving seat and drive. By this point I had had enough of him and stepped off the bus to cal the garage. Once I had explained what had happened and that I still wanted to learn the route it was suggested that I catch the bus behind and carry on there. The driver was shocked to see me but once I had explained he understood and told me to either stand on the platform next to the cab or sit upstairs. He was a very helpful person and made sure that I knew where I was going and happy with the route before asking me to drive. I found this to be the best way to learn and is the method I adopt when I have new drivers come out with me to learn my route. The only problem is that it can be abused.

 

I have had several cases when the new driver has just jumped on my bus at the start of my shift and disappeared upstairs for the duration, this can cause a problem as some of the routes are quite complicated and if you miss turn there is no way to turn around and go back. If they do decide that they want to sit upstairs then I ask them to at least stay on the platform for one round trip so that they can see the turnings. Once they have done that then I ask them if they want to drive, most of the time they say no and go upstairs for the rest of the shift but every once n a while one will say yes and drive. This can make life very interesting as sometimes it is the first time that they have driven a bus in service.

One of my route learners was adamant that he knew the route from the start so I said to him “if you are that confident then after the rush you can drive”

“No problem” he said with a smirk “it’s easy”.

I did the rush hour trip and then as promised, I let him drive. Straight away I knew that something was going to go wrong as he almost missed the first stop and had to jam the brakes on so hard I almost flew through the windscreen. I put this down to nerves and let him carry on. I almost wish that I hadn’t. He was all over the place, bouncing off the kirb on corners, braking very late and ha for bus stops and speeding to try and keep to the running time. At on point one of the passengers asked to speak to me off the bus, this is unheard of and has never before happened to me.

“I don’t want to sound mean” said the passenger “but his driving is awful I am very glad I am getting off here”

I was shocked “I understand, I will be making a full report to the gentleman responsible for his training later” and got back onto the bus

“before you go any further” I said rather sternly “I think you should know that the passenger that just got off complained to me about your driving” I thought that I would try something to see if it would improve “you need to do a lot better from now on, take it easy and think about the passengers”

He looked shocked, did he think that he was doing ok

‘RED LIGHT! RED LIGHT!”

Yes he did as less than 30 seconds after I told him to d better he went sailing through a red traffic light causing two cars to take avoiding action. I was stunned, he hadn’t even made any effort to slow the bus down and it wasn’t like the lights had just changed either they had been on red for quite a while. That was the final straw and I asked him to pull over and get out of the driver seat.

“Why?”

‘Because you are dangerous” I said as he moved off at a more gentle pace.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Well for starters you ran that red light back there almost hitting two cars”

“So”

My god this man still didn’t get it. Over the course of the next 15 minutes, while driving, I patiently explained to him everything that he had done wrong since starting to drive the bus and said to him “I’m sorry but I have to call control about the red light incident”

They got back to me straight away and said “Bzzzzz, thanks driver can you ask him to come straight back to garage and when you are done can you come down and fill out a report”

Later on in the week I was at the depot when I spotted my route learner and asked him what they had done,

He told me that when he got back he was asked what had happened and then told that it must never happen again. He was then booked back onto the training course for three days with an assessment at the end to make sure that his driving was totally up to standard. As it turns out there was a mystery shopper that got on while he was driving and the report said much of the same things that I had said in my report.

Regulars

During my shifts there are a number of days when I will be on early mornings or late nights and, usually you will see the same people at the same stops at the same time. Once you get to know where they are you start to look out for them, even stopping when they are running and not anywhere near the bus or waiting at an interchange (multiple services using one stop) if you know that they catch another bus before yours. It can make you a couple of moments late but the gesture is usually appreciated by them. Sometimes it is the small things that can make a day start the right way.

This last week I have been on the early morning shift and I remembered from the last time that there were several people that would always be running for the bus as they caught another that didn’t quite make it in time. The first time I thought nothing of it. The second day I asked them what the problem was as they always arrived swearing about the other driver.

“He is never on time, if he was we wouldn’t have to run for your bus and you wouldn’t have to wait for us”

“I don’t mind waiting for you. It’s not like I’m going to hit traffic this early in the morning is it. What route is it and what time is he supposed to get at your stop”

They told me and it was then that I realised that I knew who the driver was and I saw him every morning. He was usually just leaving the depot as I arrived on the staff bus.

“Don’t worry ladies I will have a word with the driver tomorrow see if I can get him to pick you up on time.”

“Really? Oh that would be great, thanks”

 

So the following morning I arrive a little earlier to seek out the driver. I finally find him sitting on the bus getting ready to leave for the first run and explain to him the situation.

“No problem I can do that I didn’t realise that they needed to catch another bus”

“Thanks they will be so grateful”

 

So the following day I was approaching the same stop where I picked up the two ladies before and as I was looking ahead I noticed that there seemed to be people waiting at the stop. This was very unusual as I normally had to wait a few moments before anyone was there.

“Thanks driver, whatever you said to him actually helped he was early for once.”

“Glad to help out. Ill let him know how much you appreciated it and make sure he does it for the rest of the week.”

 

The following day I again sought out the driver and thanked him. I also suggested that it might be an idea to put a note on the running board about it. It’s always a good idea to take care of the regular passengers as they are usually the ones that complain the most about drivers but they will also thank the driver and mean it.

 

The late night regulars are a different sort. They usually are already at the stop waiting for you and know the times off by heart. If the bus is later than normal they are the first to ask if you got held up somewhere and if it will affect their journey home. It is not unusual for them to stand at the front and talk for a while as we have something in common, the late working, It is nice and it can speed that long final trip up. Unfortunately they are also the ones that want to be let out right in front of the stop and, sadly, this is not allowed and if you tell them that it can go one of two ways. They start to yell at you and use the “All the other drivers do it “line or they will understand. I do try and look after all the regulars as much as I can but you have to draw a line somewhere or they will just try and take advantage of you. The problem is that once you start doing things like that you can’t stop as they will say “But you did it yesterday”

 

When I am running the very last bus of service I will always keep an eye out for the running passenger. There is usually at least one a night and it can be very hard to spot them

Ask The Driver (22)

Only a couple of questions this week so here we go

Bounder: How the hell do them ‘bus only’ traffic lights work? And what exactly are they for?

Being totally honest I am not too sure exactly how they work. I think there is some sort of sensor either on the lights or in the road that detects the bus in enough time to change so the bus won’t have to slow down. It deceases the journey time for s and makes the service a little more reliable when they.

Watfordgap: Would you always tell friends and family to take the bus if they wanted to drive?

It depends son where they are going and at what time. If I know that there is a reliable bus service that runs fairly close to where they are going then yes I would. I am all for using public transport wherever it is possible and practical to. There are instances where it is not practical to though.

Karenstrunks What happens if a driver gets caught speeding by a speed camera?


Having never been caught on one I am not too sure. I believe the union gets involved with the fine but I do remember at least one driver saying that you had to pay the fine yourself. I do know that the points that go along with it get added to your license though. So you have to be very careful as too many points will lose your PSV license and it will be very hard to get back as well as being difficult to find a job that requires a clean license

A Typical Night

This is the final post in the series. Please read A Typical Morning and A Typical Afternoon before you read this one. I hope you enjoy them all.

 

5pm Ah well away I go again for the night shift I wonder what today will bring. My bus is late again and it looks like I am going to have to spend a few hours playing catch up.

 

Sorry sir you still cannot use your Off Peak ticket until after 6pm, no sir shouting at me that you need to get home won’t make a difference. Its still only 5:10 and you have to wait until 6 or pay the fare. No sir swearing at me won’t help either.

 

Yikes traffic jam from hell has just made me over 20 minutes late and I am going to face the wrath of the annoyed passenger.

 

Yes sir that’s right I sat just around the corner for 40 minutes just to annoy you. At least I have made up 5 mins. Oh my god yet another traffic jam and that’s set me back another 10 mins I think I had better call control and see what they say as there is no way I can make that up.

 

20 mins later they finally answer

 

“Control I am over 25 mins late can you please put me back on time”

 

“Maintain please driver and someone will call you back later to sort you out”

 

Yeah right that will never happen. Still off I go and who knows I may get a break yet.

 

7pm and I am still running very late so I will try control again and see what they say “Maintain please” ah well I tried. Still each time I am making up a few minutes here and there so I will be back on time soon.

 

“Sir your day ticket is out of date” Here I go again how did he think that he would get away with Jan 8th when it’s already August 8th. At least the day was correct

“No sir I cannot let you off this time you will need to pay the £1.50.” ah the age old argument next he will try and pass off that he is only 14 “Sir if you are only 14 why are you trying to use an adult ticket” good grief they must think I’m stupid “No sir I cannot let you on without paying you must pay £1.50″ This could go on for a while. I think Ill turn the engine off. “Sir it doesn’t bother me if you stand there all night. The only people you are annoying are the ones on the bus that have already paid and are waiting for YOU to get off so we can carry on. If you don’t get off then I will be forced to call the police and you will have to explain to them why you don’t want to pay the £1.50″ Ah finally he got the message now I can carry on.

 

Nearly done just a couple of hours left of this shift. Oh great there is a gang of 20 standing waiting for my bus. Oh what a surprise they all pile on and no one pays they must think that I will let them get away with it. A quick “OI” and they stop. “Someone going to pay for you all then?”

 

“Nah f*** you”

 

*Oh great* this should be fun to deal with but if I let them get away with it tonight they will try every night. Just be polite and don’t argue with them “Sorry what did you say?”

 

“F*** YOU”

 

“I see, well unless everyone pays no one is going to travel tonight” lets see what happens.

 

“F*** YOU”

 

*Wow so original and witty* I wonder if they are able to say anything else? “OK well this bus will not be going anywhere until someone pays for everyone and if you continue to use that language at me you won’t be going anywhere”

 

“Go F*** yourself we aint paying for anything”

 

God they really are pushing it here. Oh well time to make good on my threat. Engine off and radio’s emergency button pushed

 

“What you f*****g doing”

“Exactly what I said I would, you haven’t paid and you have continued to abuse me so you won’t be travelling on this bus tonight”

 

Radio: come in driver

 

“Control, I’ve got 5 youths here that are refusing to pay and being very abusive towards me”

 

“Bzzzzz received do you require assistance”

 

That has to be the silliest question to ask.

 

“Yes please I am at the outer terminus”

 

‘Received the police are on their way now.”

 

Wow I have never seen such large people move so fast they must break the record. Oh look they have left me some DNA on the assault screen how wonderful. Still onwards who knows what the rest of the night will bring.

 

“I thought you handled them very well driver.”

“Thank you” A grateful passenger, its nice to know I am appreciated sometimes.

“I know them and they never pay, most drivers don’t say anything. So far you have been the only one to stand up to them. You don’t deserve the abuse you get; you are only doing your job.”

Amazing, someone actually cares bout us and what we do. They also agree with us as well.

 

Getting near the end of my night now and wouldn’t you know it my bus is showing a warning light, better call it n. I know what they will say anyway.

“Control I have an engine warning light on.”

“What color is it?”

“Yellow”

“Maintain service and ill call you back after I have called the engineers.”

Yeah right, that’s never going to happen. They never want to come out after 10pm anyways.

 

Last trip and I am the last bus and wouldn’t you know its Friday as well. This should make it interesting for me.

And away I go. Watching out for drunks, runners and drunken runners.

“Mind the step as you get off sir” Oh I hope that he makes it home ok, he looks like he has had at least 5 too many from the way that he is hugging that lamppost.

 

Several people come running towards the stop just as I pass it. I decide that it might be a good idea to stop and wait for them I am the last bus after all. If they miss me it’s about 6 hours till the next one goes past.

 

“Thanks Driver ” they pant as they get on. See some of us do care about the passengers and it’s nice to get a thank you.

Uh oh. More runners better make sure that they want my bus as it is a multiple service stop.

“I’m sorry but I think you have missed that one” they didn’t want me after all but I think can still help.

“If you get on here and get off at the last stop you should be able to catch the last xx and that goes very near where you need to go.’

Sometimes I wonder if I know too much about other services.

Nearly at the end now and there has only been the one drunk which makes a change. Last stop and wouldn’t you know it there is a man asleep. I bet he has missed his stop as well; I had better employ the wake up boot.

“Last stop sir”

“wassup”

“Sir this is the last and final stop”

“Oh, I’ve gotten on the wrong bus”

And he staggers off into the distance. I hope he makes it to wherever he is going.

Time to get this bus back to the depot. Just need to check it and make sure that there is nothing left behind. Nothing this time just the usual collection of rubbish. Back in the depot and the vault is very heavy tonight, it must have been a busy day. All I need to do now is catch the staff bus home and I am dome.

 

Thank you for reading this small series of posts I hope you enjoyed them.

Ask The Driver 21

Supercoolkp Do you ever sing or whistle while driving? If yes, do passengers ever join in?!

Sometimes I may have a song that runs through my head for days but I have not yet started to sing along to it. I did have a lovely woman on one of my late night buses that started singing some gospel songs that others sang to. It made a nice change to the normal music and the passengers seemed to enjoy it.

 

Theaardvark Have you ever got a route wrong when you’re new to it? Like the bus in the photos that went under a low bridge.

Oh yes. Once I had been dong one route all week and on Saturday it changed to a different route, only one turn though. I went the wrong way I realized as soon as I turned. Another time was on my first day on a new route. It went a different way into the city than when it came out but I hadn’t payed attention during route training. I only realized on the way out of city when I saw another bus go a different way.

 

Strix_aluco If you could drive a bus in any world city, which would you choose?

Tricky, I think probably somewhere like San Francisco or New York. I would like to drive between cities in the states as well.

Littlelaura Do you tally up the no’s peeps say “thank you” when getting off the bus? Are some days of week better than others?

Sometimes I do but most of the time I don’t. The best time of the week for them is probably mid week in the middle of the day. Sometimes Saturday night can be pretty pleasant as well.

Karmadillo What’s the weirdest thing any ever left behind on your bus?

Aside from the usual array of umbrellas, bags, hats, coats etc. I have had a bag full of minced beef and cheese. Not just one or two but about a dozen of each. Someone forgot several of their bags and had to wait for me to come back past. I had someone almost forget their cat that was in a basket in the luggage rack. Usually all that gets left on the bus is rubbish, empty cans, bottles things like that.

Podnosh What do you have in your lunchbox when you are on a shift?

This may shock people but I don’t take a lunch out with me. As the breaks are not guaranteed you can’t say that you will get enough time for lunch. If you get stuck in a bad traffic jam you could wind up missing a lot of your breaks to make up the time. Having said that, though, I do take a drink out with me and most of the time I have some sort of snack as well. I just have to have big meals when I get home, o before I go out if I am on nights.

Citizensheep How do you deal with those who pay too much then demand change despite sign on machine & drivers not carrying any?

There is not a lot I can do. They are usually easy to spot as they ask how much it is. I generally point them in the direction f the nearest shop and tell them the correct fare ad when the next bus is due. If I don’t catch them in time and they have already put the money in I have to politely inform them again that we don’t give change and that I have not got a key to the vault. If they still demand their change then, as there is nothing more that I can do, I advise them to write into our head office explaining what happened and request their change that way. To this day I have never actually had to say that. They normally stop when they realize they don’t have the right money.

Ask The Driver 20

A bumper crop of questions this week, thank you all for them and here we go.  

Podnosh would you like your name painted by the cab just like a spitfire pilot?

Actually no I wouldn’t. Its not that I am a bad drive and don’t want to be identified by my passengers I just have a feeling that if we had our names on the bus the abuse we get would get a lot worse. The youths would be able to target individual drivers and totally ruin their days. As it s now we enjoy the sense that as soon as they get off the bus there is only a slim chance that they will get back on. If our names were on the bus they would be able to pick us out.

Have you ever had a cut and shut bus?

Not yet. I think that there are none of those in the fleet. I know of several that have had a lot of repair work done because of accidents but they are really difficult to tell apart from the others. Unless you know the fleet number o them you really can’t tell.

 

LittleLaura’s 7yr old son asks… would you like a triple decker bus?

During the rush hour when there are quite often too many passengers for my bus yes please, when there are high winds no thanks. It is scary enough with a double decker.

Katchooo Do drivers still have annual works Christmas parties – or was that cancelled due to cuts? WMPTE Santa and pressies rocked.

Well there was one last year. Sadly I was not able to make it. I am not sure if there will be one this year.

Antonio – Do the TWM drivers and drivers from other companies get on or is there some friendly rivalry going on there?

There is a little bit of rivalry going on but or the most part they tend to be quite friendly. Having other companies on the routes can be very useful in rush hour but I have found that most passengers tend to wait for a twm bus to show up.

- Are passengers supposed to stand at the front of the stop or the back? I still haven’t worked this one out.

Hmm, this is a good one. If there is a shelter then we are instructed to stop by the flag so the line should start there. In reality it tends to turn into a bit of a free for all and that can get nasty when people decided they don’t want to wait and push infront of the people that have been there for ages.

- This is a bit of a “why oh why” question. Why, when a bus is about to pull out does the driver never seem to do a quick check in his side mirror to make sure someone isn’t pegging it towards the bus? It’s SO annoying! (This happened to me today hence the anger is still nice and fresh)

I’m very sorry that happened to you. I do have a look in that mirror and have it positioned to that I can see the side of the bus. Other drivers may have it slightly different and may not check. It can be very difficult to stop once we have started to move away as other traffic may have stopped to let us out. The bus does have a very large blind spot as well so it is very possible that when passengers run along the side of the bus we lose sight of them.

- How reliable is the live update information at stops? It seems to be spot on some days and totally out on others.

That very much depends on the transmitter that it in the bus and if it is sending the correct information. As it is also linked to the ticket machine if the driver inputs the wrong information this can lead to incorrect information being displayed at the stops. I have found it to usually be very reliable but if you get a bus without a transmitter or one that isn’t working then the information can be very wrong.

How much is a bus?

A couple of weeks ago one of my followers asked me the following question

Lizzzardbits: How much is a bus? As we only pay a few £ to ride, cheap transport, and seats are plastic & cloth, we tend to think whole bus is cheap.

Now I didn’t know the exact answer to this so I sent the question in to Mr. Phil Bateman at NXWM to see if he could find out for me. This he did and he sent me an e-mail back with the answer.

One bus costs the company around £160,000. Now that is a lot of money and considering that they are changing the fleet to be totally low floor by 2010 that is a very big investment.

Now let’s put that price against something that we all know. One bus costs the same as 13 Ford Focus or 3.6 BMW Z4 coupe. It’s a sobering thought that.

Now considering that the passengers pay £1.50 per trip and assuming they make 2 trips a day (to and from work) it will take 1 passenger 53,333 days or 205 years (assuming a 5 day working week) to get the full amount back. Now that’s a long time and very scary. Somehow I can’t see someone willing to travel for that amount of time.

I am very amazed that I get to drive a vehicle that is worth that amount of money. I wonder if the passengers would have a little more respect for the bus if they knew how much it is worth, especially the ones that decorate the upper deck in their own unique style.

Ask The Driver (19)

Just a couple of questions this time around so here we go.

Littlelaura: I asked my 7 yr old what he would ask…here it is #askthedriver Would you like turbo rocket boosters to help the bus go faster?

Oh yes there are some times when they would come in very handy. I could always use an extra turn of speed when I am running late or just to get the bus moving when it is full. I am sure that they would also come in very handy for when I have someone that is too close behind me in traffic.

Charlottecarey How can a group of adults on a bus handle music playing youths without creating a situation? assuming that asking the driver to get involved would by its nature create a ‘situation’.

Interesting question this, my first answer would naturally be to talk to the driver bus as you have said that this would cause the ‘situation’ that you want to avoid then I will have to find another way. If there is more than one of you that thinks the same way then it would probably be better if only one asked the person to turn it off or down. Perhaps ask them to use their headphones might work. You could try any of those but I would suggest that the best thing is to talk to the driver. If they get really aggressive they they can call the police via the radio.

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