Ask The Driver (6)

It’s that time of the week again. After the events of last night I am feeling the need to do something good before tonight so I am going to get this post done and dusted in one sitting (yikes)

 

watfordgap but do you ever drive route 1?

Sadly no I don’t ever get to drive route 1. I would like to sometime though.

pigsonthewing I’d like to #askthedriver what shift pattern do you work?

I work the same shift pattern the rest of the drivers work. We all work 5 days out of 7. The rest of it depends on the route you do. The one Im on has a very short rota so the late nights and early mornings come around very quickly. Those you work 7 days then have a long weekend (Friday to Monday) then work 7 late nights (Tuesday to Monday) then get another couple of days off. You then start on the day duties and this lasts between 1 and 3 weeks then back to the early mornings. Lather, rinse, repeat till the end of time.

brendadada is 16 drunks about average for a Friday night and what happens with the ones who fall into the road? has anyone died on one of your runs? Must happen…

16 is actually a very good night for drunks. It all depends on the weather as well. If its raining then there will be less. If its been a nice week then the number will be higher. The ones that fall into the road I usually make sure that they are ok and not injured (very rare) and point them in the right direction. If we called out ambulances or police for them all I would never get home. Finally, no-one has died on my duty (yet) I have heard of people having a heart attack on the bus and even going into labour. I have also heard of stabbings that later died in hospital but never someone actually passing away on the bus. Are you trying to tell me something about my driving lol??

Ok this next one also is important as part of the answer is company policy.

charlottecarey are drivers allowed to get off bus, leaving full bus and engine running to go to shops/call of nature etc?

The short answer to this is NO. This is leaving the bus unsecure. We are not allowed to leave the bus unsecure at all. We are allowed to answer the call of nature at a terminus point providing that there are facilities there BUT we must make the bus secure. That is engine off, battery isolated, ticket machine module removed. Its very rare but we can radio in for a “comfort break” on the route if we have to and they will send an inspector to watch the bus. We are not allowed to leave the bus full of passengers to go to the shop. If this happens to you then I suggest the following. Get the fleet number of the bus (this is four digits above the door), the time & date, the place and the route and send off a complaint via the website. Don’t forget to follow it up if you don’t get a response though. These will eventually make it down to the correct garage and from there the driver can be traced and the service improved.

Well there you go more questions answered. Please keep sending them in and don’t forget the #askthedriver Thanks again

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A Milestone

Wow its amazing. A milestone has been reached in this little blog of mine.

Sometime yesterday i reached the 1000 visit mark.

Its amazing as I did not ever think it would make it this far.

Thanks everyone and I will do my best to keep posting

Ask The Driver (5)

bounder Can you drive a complete circuit of the eleven route without having to have a break?

Well as it turns out you can. This surprised me even more than I thought. A full circuit of the eleven route takes 2 hours 20 mins. Now we are allowed to do 5 hours 30 mins of driving before a 45 mins break is enforced by law. So the drivers can do two and a bit circuits before taking a break. Most routes now have breaks built in because of this rule so the service is not interrupted.

livebrum What are the most popular and unpopular routes to drive? Is there internal jockeying to get the ‘good’ routes?

It varies from garage to garage what the good and bad routes are. There is some jockeying to get the better ones. Those are usually the ones that have the largest amount of breaks and the best planned running times. Usually the drivers tend to pick the routes that have relief points closest to home though.

livebrum Do the bus lanes make a big difference? Are they respected enough to be useful?

The bus lanes can make a difference but around where I live there are not that many. The are not respected enough as almost every time I try and use one there is someone parked in it or using it as their own personal lane. If there were some sort of way of enforcing the penalty of driving in them then they would be much more useful. Once they are useful I think that there would be more put in.

catnip Do you think that the general standard of driving is getting worse? What bad driving behavior annoys you most?

If you are talking about bus drivers then yes the standard is getting worse. Car driving is also getting worse as well. The worst offenders have to be the mini cab drivers though. The most annoying behavior from bus drivers has to be the speeding along and then suddenly realizing that there is a bus stop 20 yards away that passengers want so the brakes go on as hard as they can and everyone gets thrown forward. With car drivers it’s the selective blindness that annoys me most. I’ve lost count of the number of times a car has pulled out in front of me at islands and junctions and looked surprised when I use my horn to full effect. Hmm I’m driving a 30 foot long, 16 foot tall, 8 foot wide vehicle painted in red, white and blue, which PART didn’t you see?

brendadada Upstairs on the 50 was well known as a great place to get high for free. Did all that ever affect the driver?

Oh god yes it does. The fumes are awful for us drivers as well. Just remember that you only have to sit on there for as long as your journey lasts. We have to stay on there for up to 8 hours a day and those fumes don’t go away quickly. I’ve had to be taken off the road because the fumes have made me physically sick!

Driving the New Scania

A couple of weeks ago I had the wonderful pleasure of driving one of our garages new Scania Omilink single deck busses in service. Now the only other time that I have driven one of these was when I was trained on it about six months ago when they started to arrive. It was a very interesting moment for me. I was interested to see how I faired with it. There had been many complaints about the doors and the safety interlock that prevents the bus from moving until the doors have shut completely and also prevents them from opening until the bus has stopped. Both of those features along with the length of time it took the doors to open have lost the company a lot of miles and money and the drivers are still adapting to them.

So, there I was checking out my bus ready for service. There are lots of new features that are both interesting and pointless. The driver’s seat now has an air bag as its height control. The cab door now locks with a magnet. This was found to be a problem and the door could be forced open by a very strong and determined passenger. This has now been fixed with the simple application of a strap and hook. The passenger area is very comfortable but the back row of seats is way too high up for a normal person to sit on. I hit my head when I was doing my walk round check. The ticket machine is just out of arms reach for me so I have to lean forward whenever I need to press a button on it. Yeah I know that last one is petty but you try sitting in your chair at home and having your PC keyboard just out of arms reach and then lean forward to press the arrow down button when reading. Annoying isn’t it? That’s what I get. The machine that spits out the ticket is just the other side of a little plastic wall that is very thin and this makes it very annoying when you print a ticket as it is right by my left ear and very noisy.

Now that the niggles are out of the way how about some good things about it. They have fixed the main problem with the doors. They may not be the quickest but they are quicker than before. The pull away from rest is wonderful, very quick and it gets up to speed very well. Maintaining speed also is wonderful and it is very smooth. The brakes, once you get used to them, are wonderful and I can stop with minimal jerking. The drivers seat is quite possibly the most comfortable that I have had the pleasure of sitting on. The whole thing is mounted on an air-bag of some sort. This makes it very interesting if you hit a speed bump too fast. Watch the driver bounce! They are also very fuel efficient. When the bus is stopped the revs drop right down to conserve fuel. It has a “light check” switch. This when it’s activated cycles through all the lights on the bus in turn so you can check them. This is great for the rears as it also checks the break lights. You still need to check the switches in the cab but it saves a lot of time. The saloon lights now have a high and low setting. This is great at night as it cuts down the glare on the windscreen.

So there you have it. On the whole I think that the new Scania is a good bus to drive and the only mistake that they made was not ordering them in the new livery. They all have the red, white and blue on them and will have to be re-painted at some point. Now as they are still under warranty for 3 years that is not going to happen soon so they soon will be the odd ones out! Ah well, no-ones perfect.

Weapons on the Bus

Today I read in the wonderful paper The Metro this article.

It’s amazing what goes on and I can only feel sorry for my poor fellow driver in London. The police asked him to lock the doors. Err, small problem officer. We cannot lock the doors. The only way is to keep our finger on the door close button and hope that they don’t grow a brain and leg it out of the emergency exit at the back. It is nice to see the police doing their jobs though and making the streets safer. It is a good example of preventing a crime. The officers noticed something odd and went to have a look. I suspect that if they were wrong there would have just been a “sorry to have bothered you” and a couple of red faces. But they were right and it shows. Let’s hope that the other parts of the force see this wonderful example and follow suit.

In our garage we do have a notice board that, currently, has a few items on it from the local police saying how good they are and how they have caught several vandals. They are getting better but I do admit it is not a job that can be done easily. With the amount of buses in Birmingham and the routes that they cover a lot is going to slip through the net. Hopefully this arrest in London will make th youths think twice before acting.

Ask The Driver (4)

charlottecarey Q: do TWM recycle metros?

Now this one was asked last week but I needed to go away and do some research into the subject. The information that I found out was amazing.

The metro’s are all very old (some older than me WOW) and as such are very very difficult to get spare parts for. When one of them breaks down and cannot be repaired it is usually broken down into parts and salvaged that way. The parts can then be used to repair other old metros. This won’t work for all of the problems and sometimes the bus is just too far gone and is sold for scrap. The company is aiming to get rid of all of the older busses by 2010 I believe. They will be sadly missed as they are more reliable and easier to drive (in my opinion) than the newer ones. The only downside to them is the heater takes ages to heat up and the wipers were air powered. That wasn’t very good if the bus had an air leak.

The final thing that TWM do with the older busses is sells them to other companies. They do this on the condition that they will be repainted and not used in the TWM area for at least 40 years. At least that’s what I have been told.

 

paulbradshaw why does the bus queue always form after I arrive at the bus stop?

Again I had to look into this one and found out that all of our stops are fitted with a usage sensor. This is activated when anyone approaches it and contacts 16 other people and suggests to them that they need to catch the bus now and that their nearest stop is the one that you use. This will give the impression that the service is used a lot and will always make sure that there is a queue at whatever stop you are using.

 

Once again please please keep your questions flowing into me and I will try and answer them for you.

Ask The Driver (3)

Ok so yet more questions to be answered and I am really enjoying this so lets get going.

 

hanuman so
the bus driver gets to work by bus but how does the driver of the first bus of the day get to work?

peteashton If you’re the last bus in at night, how do you get home?

Ok those two questions I can answer at once. As you are probably very aware if you read all my tweets I am often up at 3am or earlier to drive the early morning bus. Now at that time there are no busses available to get me to work and I don’t own a car. So there is a wonderful thing called the staff bus. This is usually one of our single deckers driven by some poor man who starts work at midnight and finishes at 6am. He transports us from the garage to as near our house as he can get and in the morning from our house to the garage. It’s a very useful service for those that don’t have cars. All we have to do is to put our name in a book next to the time that we want to be picked up. We do have to allow for travel time from our house to the garage and that is not usually a problem. For the late nights we generally just wait for a short while to collect a few drivers and then the bus leaves to take us home. This continues with the driver making anything upto about 4 runs per night, once the last bus is in though he knows that he is done for the night. He then has a few other jobs to do before his first pick up at 4am

pigsonthewing How do you reduce the fuel consumption of your bus? Why do busses keep their engine running while stopped for long periods?

This one is a little harder to answer. I can speak for myself here though. Reducing the fuel consumption is very hard to do when you consider what we drive and the nature of the job. Stop start motoring is not a very good way of saving fuel. It can be saved with less aggressive driving, easy on the gas and brake, things like that.

Leaving the bus running is another matter though. There are many reasons why this may happen. The bus could have a slow air leak and needs the engine running to keep the air pressure up, there could be a problem with the starter, it may be freezing on the bus and the heater needs to be run to get the bus run. I have always turned the engine off when I am parked and will continue to do so for as long as I can. The only reason I don’t is if there is a reason like the ones above OR I am not going to be stopped for long (less than 5 mins) as it would be more fuel efficient to keep the bus running on idle for that amount of time. It takes a lot of fuel to start one of these things.

 

Ok so that’s more questions answered. Please ask more I love getting them and looking into the answers. Charlottecarey asked a very good one via twitter this week and I am doing some research into it and will answer it either later this week or with the next batch of questions.