Its Back

Ok so I said that I would do this again so here it is

Ask The Driver has returned.

I am going to leave the questions open for two weeks this time so that ,hopefully, you will have time to read this and think of a question for me.

You can contact me via email, twitter and leaving a comment here. If you do use twitter please use the hashtag #askthedriver so I can find them.

I will look through them all and pick a few to answer on Jan 14th 2012.

Have fun.

Ask The Driver Birthday Special

 

Thank you all for the questions that you sent in over the last couple of weeks. Thank you very much for them and I hope that you enjoy reading my answers.

 

editorialgirl What exactly was “Give Us A Smile”?

The “Give us a smile” campaign was as star_one said a campaign to get passengers to text in when they had a good or bad trip on a bus. Posters were put up all over the buses with a dedicated number to text in on. The other side of it was in the garages. All of the drivers that booked on early in the morning were given a huge badge and sticker with the “Give us a smile” logo on in an attempt to make us smile while we were out on the road. I must admit it was a little weird but if a smile brightened up a passengers day then I am all for it.

 

Bounder Tell us about your development as a blogger and writer, aren’t you bored of buses yet?

No I am not bored of buses yet. When I started out I had no idea how to go about writing the blog so I just read a few and saw what they were writing about. My wife had already suggested that I write about what I tell her when I get home so I did. It was very hard at first, I couldn’t think about what I wanted to write and thought that no one would want to read about my days on the road. I had a long struggle with every post, how to write it and what to write about. As I got into the swing of it the writing became easier although thinking about what to write about is still a problem sometimes. Once I have the idea for a post it usually gets written fairly quickly but there are times when I still struggle but then I suppose that’s true for most writers. Since starting the blog I have also started to write a book on my life as a bus driver and this is something that I never thought that I could ever do and yet here I am writing it. I feel that I have come a long way since starting and I hope to continue to learn more.

 

NXWM PR What exactly is that beeping sound coming from the drivers cab?

There are several beeps that come from the cab during a normal day, the indicators which are just beep beep beep, and then there is a quieter but constant beep beep beep. That is the onboard CCTV machine saying it has a problem. A constant loud beeeeeeep is a fault with the bus.

 

editorialgirl What do you think of this blog post: http://randomreality.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2008/10/29/3952362.html? Do you shake people awake, or do you call an ambulance?

I have never called an ambulance out for someone who is asleep on my bus. Usually I can wake them with a shout or a prod with my boot. I have heard of other drivers not even bothering to do that and just calling but I will always try first and only if I can’t wake them will I call for assistance.

 

supercoolkp Do you feel different since starting the blog? Have you learnt anything from commenter’s? Are you the best driver?!

I do feel a little different. It’s a good feeling though I am doing something that I enjoy and other people enjoy reading the results. Yes it may be hard work for me but the rewards are there for everyone to read. I don’t get that many comments but I have learned a few things from them. I shouldn’t be afraid to speak my mind and I do need to be a little careful about what I write about the company. As for being the best driver, there is an annual competition to decide that.

 

strix_aluco How would you prefer to be addressed by a passenger: “mate”, “chief”, “driver” or “skipper”? Personally I prefer driver. I have never been addresses by chief or skipper and I am not a fan of mate. There are other unprintable ways of address that have been used to describe me but those only seem to occur when I refuse to take someone for not paying or the bus is late.

 

star_one off peak isn’t meant to start until 6pm, so how come by 5 you (on Bristol road at least) start seeing loads of not in service? The only reason I can think of is that they may have been delayed at some point during the afternoon and are now heading for a point where they can return to service on time. Perhaps they have just finished a school bus run and are now returning to normal service.

 

Urbanfox: Up until a few months ago, on the buses with the digital destination board, the number used to be on the left hand side, with the destinations to the left of it. It suddenly changed overnight to the number being on the right hand side of the display any idea why?

I have no idea why it was suddenly changed. It took me by surprise as well I checked the bus as normal when I arrived at the garage in the morning and it took me a couple of minutes to notice that there was something different about the display. I think that it is better for the passengers, as you said, because the number is closer to the kirb and a little easier to read but I have noticed that there are some that haven’t changed and there is at least one bus where the number jumps from left to right.

Ask The Driver (26)

 

Just the two questions this week.

 

Podnosh: Is £37 billion enough to stabilize the banking system?

Well I did say that you could ask me anything so I suppose I’d better answer. Honestly I am not sure if it will do anything to help. It seems to me to be too little too late. I wonder if something could have been done earlier to prevent the help package being needed. Perhaps if the government had noticed what was happening over in the USA and taken measures earlier the situation would be different.

 

digibrum_si: Just what would you have to do to earn £2000/month as a bus driver then?

Yikes this involved me doing maths, not something that I am that good at. I have worked out what sort of hours are involved for this magic £2000 and I am assuming that it is pre-tax. I am a little reluctant to post the exact details up here but I will say that it involves a lot of overtime almost every week even for someone who has been with the company for a few years and has worked their way up the pay scales. If you do want to know the exact details drop me an e-mail and Ill send them to you.

Ask The Driver 24

Apologies for the delay in getting this one done but I had a few issues and lost the questions several times. If I have missed yours please let me know and Ill put it in this weeks.

 

ellielovell How often do TWM clean buses (inside and out) as sometimes you can barely see out the window?

Most of the buses are swept out every night when they get back into the garage. They also usually go through a wash but that is not every bus every night as that would take too long. I think that it averages out at about once a month. At that stage they also go through a “Deep clean” where the whole bus is cleaned over including mopping the floors and removing any stubborn graffiti that wasn’t removed on the usual nightly clean

 

Bounder Cheeky I know, but what’s the font that TWM use for the numbers on bus stops?

Honestly I have no idea and I’m afraid that I wont be able to find out for you as it is Centro that maintains the stops not TWM.

 

lizzzardbits Yesterday you tweeted that the gusts are pretty bad, do you ever worry that the bus will tip over?

Sometimes I am. When it gets very windy and just the upper deck is full it can feel like the bus is leaning over much more than usual. The single deck buses that I drive also tilt alarmingly when you go round a corner at any speed. I have not heard of any type tipping over yet but there is always a first time.

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


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

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.

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.

Ask The Driver (18)

 

Chris Hey, I’m not sure if you will be able to give me an exact answer to this but I was wondering why very often when I put 75p in the cash thing on my local NXWM bus routes, and clearly ask the driver for a 75 and say please do I still get given a 55p ticket! This really annoys me as I feel robbed by the driver

Without knowing the exact situation I can’t give you a proper answer. The driver may not have heard you through the screen, if you got on with a group of other school kids he may not have seen what you put in. There are many possible answers to this but what I would suggest you do if it happens again go back to the driver and tell him that you put 75p in and ask for the correct ticket.

Graphiquillan what’s the strangest living creature you’ve ever had on the bus?

Actually I haven’t had any “strange” creatures on my bus. I just get the normal dogs and cats, things like that.

Doomster Do drivers dislike the No 11 as much as passengers seem to? Why is that?

All drivers have routes that they both like and dislike. They may not like it because it is such a long route or that it is complicated. Personally I find those sorts of routes a challenge.

Theaardvark What’s the most unexpected, pleasant surprise to have cheered up your working day?

Well aside from the usual “Thank you” moments that are actually meant and not just an automatic thing I was once pleasantly surprised one day. I had done my usual check of the bus for lost property and found a credit card holder containing an OAP pass and lots of payment cards. One of the cards did have a name and address on it and I thought that the face on the pass looked familiar. I held it with me and, sure enough, part way through the return run I saw the owner. I checked the name and address that he gave matched so I was only too happy to give it back. The following day I was pleasantly surprised to see the same man waiting at the relief point as I finished with a carrier bag in his hand. “I just wanted to thank you for getting my wallet back to me” and he handed me a four-pack of Carling, shook my hand and walked off before I had chance to refuse him. It was a wonderful way to end the day.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 98 other followers