The company that I work for isn’t just a school bus company. It
also runs coach tours and, of course, that means that many of the drivers can double up and drive the motorcoaches as well. This had always been something that I wanted to do since I started with them. I talked to my boss about it and he told me that I would have to watch some videos about it and then take a written test on the rules. Following that I then have to take my boss out for a drive so he can make sure that I wasn’t going to run into anything and to make sure that my driving was smooth enough.
The videos were the usual safety things and repeated some points over and over again but I got a lot of useful information from them anyway. Having got through those I met up with my trainer for the coach and went out driving.
The coachs that they have are very similar in height, width and length to the busses I drove in England. The only major difference is that they have a twin rear axel. This can be lifted to reduce the turning circle. My trainer was very impressed with my driving and said so to my boss and that I was ready. So after a short lesson on the log book (more later on that) we scheduled the driving test and I was sent home with a test paper on the regulations.
Fortunatly the test paper was an open book so I was able to look up the regs I needed to answer the questuon and after a long night working on it I passed it in and went out with my boss to drive.
I was very nervious about this, as you can imagine, I wanted to impress him and make sure that there was nothing that he could find that would stop me from driving coach. While we drove he started to ask me about England and why I moved over. Slowly I started to losen up and my driving got more and more relaxewd to such a point that he leaned back in his seat and put his feet up on the one next to him.
After about an hour of driving we returned back to base and after putting the coach away and logging the miles he took me to one side and told me that he was very happy with my driving and would do the paperwork needed to make me a coach driver. Needless to say I was thrilled and very excited. I would now get to see more of the states and as an added bonus get paid for it.
So the first thing that I have to do every day is to check my bus over. In the UK this was a simple thing to do and didn’t take very long and didn’t really mean much as the bus was always checked out when it came back anyway. Here with the school bus it is a very important part of the day and means a lot. You can loose your licence to drive bus if you don’t have that days pre trip inspection completed and on the bus. It’s that important.
It may seem to some drivers to be a pain in the backside to do but if you get the pattern down it should not take very long at all to do. Yes you have to check everything all the way round the bus from the washer fluid to the exit door at the back but everything that is on the list is very important and needs to be working. There are things that won’t get fixed right away, interior lights, but if you report that your headlight isn’t working then it needs to be fixed straight away. The company that I work for are very good at fixing the bus and have set up a very regular schedule for oil changes etc. On average my bus goes in for service about every two months and that is very frequent.
I have found my fair share of faults, everything from a minor light bulb being out right the way up to my stop arm not working. Both of those got fixed right away.
I always do my checks the same way. I check under the hood first. Then start the bus and listen to it. I know that sounds strange but sometimes on start-up you can hear problems. Once it is running I start checking all my switches. The lights, the heaters etc. Then I move to the inside. Every seat on my bus has a belt so those get checked as do the tie downs for the wheelchairs. The emergency exits are checked and secured. Then its time for the exterior. I check all the body work for damage and make sure that all the clearance lights are working. I run the wheelchair lift and check the duel wheels at the rear. Finally I check the stop arm and crossing arm.
There is a lot more to the check than what I have written there but those are the highlights. It is a very detailed check and covers all of the important areas. I enjoy the time that I spend doing them as it gives me time to get into the right frame of mind for the day ahead. I know that sounds a little silly but it works for me.
There are stories going around of drivers that fail to do the checks and they usually end up with the driver being fired so for the sake of a small part of my day I will always be doing the checks.