Fighting With The Police

It was another fine morning in my time as a bus driver. I was doing my turn doing early mornings and was getting tired. It’s harder than you think getting up at 3am for a week. The morning had passed without much of a problem except for the usual thing with getting stuck in the rush hour traffic but I had got passed that and was now in the darkness before the 9:30am off peak and OAP pass time. This is the time when we drivers can usually take a moment to collect our thoughts and catch up any time we lost in the rush hour.

I was sitting quietly at the inner terminal point awaiting my time to leave when a gentleman that I would describe as “on edge” boarded my bus. He didn’t say anything, just placed his fare in the chute and took the ticket and sat down. I checked my running board and saw that I had another two minutes to go before I had to leave so I got my diary out and started to write down my duties for the next few weeks. This is always a good thing to have just so you know what you are doing. It makes it easier to plan things.

As I was writing them down I became aware of a tapping noise from the passenger compartment. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw the gentleman that had just got on was tapping his foot on the floor and looked very annoyed. I tried to ignore him but the tapping just continued. Eventually it stopped and he came up to the cab and demanded “when are you leaving driver?” I checked the time and then my running board and very politely informed him “In about 3 minutes sir” it would appear that that was not the answer that he was looking for and all hell broke loose.

“That’s not good enough!” he hollered “I need to be here” points to map location that’s a good half hour away “by 9:30”

Oh god, I thought. How am I going to deal with this? There is a small problem with what he said. He needs to be there at 9:30am and it is now 9:20! He is not going to take this well. Ah well, deep breath in and go for it. “I’m very sorry sir but I wont be getting to that location until about 10am”

While I had prepared myself for the usual torrent of abuse nothing could prepare me for what happened next.

The man flipped his lid. He went nuts. He was screaming and shouting abuse at me, banging on the cab door trying to get at me. He was punching the windscreen and I actually thought that he would do himself and/or the passengers some injury. I tried to calm him down but he was not going to listen to me and I was not going to get out of the safety of the cab. I was stuck and this guy was getting worse and worse. Then I remembered the bandit alarm. It was worth trying it. I reached down and flipped the switch. Lights flashed and the siren blared out. Good job that there were two local police officers walking down the road near my bus. They came over to see what was going on and spotted the man. One of the officers somehow managed to get himself inserted in the very small gap between the cab door and the man and very quickly moved him further away so he could talk to me and get the story on what was happening.

While I was explaining what had lead up to me hitting the switch I could hear the man arguing with the other officer about being removed from the bus and then heard him yell “if you don’t let me get on that F****** bus I’ll f****** slap you” Yes he actually said that to a police officer. BAD MOVE!! The officer warned him but it was too late. The man swung and BANG! The officer had caught the mans arm and used his own momentum to twist him around and push him face first into the bus shelter. The officer then started to apply the handcuffs and read him his rights.

Now you have to remember that all this happened in the space of about 3 minutes.

I looked down at the clock and then said to the officer “Erm I need to get going here”

“Oh no problem” he said with a smile “We will probably just arrest him for disturbing the peace or something like that and we don’t really need you for that”

“Thanks for your help” said I

“No problem”

And with that I was on my way. I couldn’t resist a look in the mirror to see what was happening to the chap though. He was being led, in handcuffs, to the police station. That caused me to smile. If he had just accepted the fact that he had mistimed his journey and perhaps called and let whoever know that he was going to be late he wouldn’t have been in such a bad mood. As it happened he was going to be very late that day.

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Ask The Driver (9)

I got a lot of questions this week so I have rolled some over to next week. This weeks answers are below.

Editorialgirl: Do you prefer pax to ring the bell or just stand in view when they want to get off? I’ve been told off for both in the past!

This is actually one of the easiest questions to answer. I prefer passengers to do both. That is ring the bell in plenty of time for your stop but still after the one before you want. Once the bell has been rung start to, carefully, make your way to the front of the bus and stand just behind the drivers cab door. The reason I want both is I have had the bell rung and no one wants to get off and I have also had passengers come to the front of the bus when they were just looking for where they were.

Caroline Charlton:
A few years ago I was on a No. 35 in Balsall Heath when a drunk was causing problems. He wouldn’t get off and the driver drove the bus off the route to Edward Road police station, where two policewomen came out and persuaded the drunk to leave. Is driving the bus to a police station still an option?

Not really. It has been done in the past and could be done again. Sometimes it is quicker to go to the police rather than have them come to you. The problem is that they won’t come out to a moving vehicle. So you have to stop and deal with whoever is causing the problem so it could be safer and quicker to go to them. We would have to radio control for permission to leave the route though.

Theaardwark: Does TWM know why the bus lane on the A38 toward Minworth has not been re-instated? I understand that it was suspended because the Council forgot to enact the by-laws required to give it effect. So why don’t they just enact the appropriate by-laws now? Not that I mind. As a car driver, I’m happy to have access to that lane.

Honestly I have no idea. I know that the signs were spray painted over quite a while ago and people I know say that the traffic flow has improved since then. Other than that I have no idea sorry

Pete Ashton: A couple of times, once in London and once in Birmingham, someone got on the bus without paying and the driver refused to move on until they paid or got off. Eventually the passengers ganged up on the miscreant and got them off the bus. Is this normal? Would you recommend it?

Oh yeah it sure is. The good thing about working for TWM is we just get paid by the hour. We don’t earn anything on the amount of passengers we carry. I have done what you described many times and it always works. I do however go one step further. I turn the engine off as well. It can create an argument but after a while the offender gives up and leaves. It’s very effective in rush hour when there are a lot of passengers on the bus. As all they want to do is go home they tend to gang up on the person that is holding the bus up and usually they end up paying.

 

Ok so that’s this lot answered. I have some left over so they will get answered next week. Please keep your questions coming though.

Training Part 2

When we last left me (see training part 1) I had just gotten through the interview and was ready to take the theory test. This was critical as if I didn’t pass this then I couldn’t start my training. I needed a new job NOW so I knuckled down to it and studied as hard as I could. It was very hard work and there was one part that I couldn’t prepare myself for at all. The hazard perception test.

The day came and I was very nervous as I had found out that as well as the theory and hazard perception tests there were going to be doing breath and urine tests! It was a very tense area as they were testing a lot of people that day. The time came for my exam and I was sweating so much I was worried that it would show up. The hazard perception was first and that was horrid. It was a series of videos and you had to click the mouse every time you saw a possible hazard. The only catch was you couldn’t just sit there clicking the mouse. Click too often and you failed! Having completed that part of the test it was onto the theory. I have always thought that it was pointless to ask us questions on driving but I sat down and took it. I had worked really hard and thankfully it had paid off. I passed both the tests and, naturally, the other tests came back as good.

This was it. They gave me a start date and I was ready to go. I was going to get to drive a bus.

The first day came around almost as quickly as the tests had. I arrived in plenty of time and joined the other trainees for my first day. It naturally started with a mountain of paperwork that we had to read and sign. Basic stuff though. The interesting part was the one that I remember most. It said that until we passed the practical bus driving test we would not get our training pay and that we had two attempts at it that the company would pay for, any more and we had to foot the bill ourselves. Once that was all done with it was onto the training for real. We were put back into the classroom where we took the tests at the start and given an outline of how the course would go. It was a lot of on the road training, no surprise there, a couple of days in a classroom for “Conflict avoidance” and training on the ticket machine. The days would be a basic 8 till 4 with a later day thrown in for good measure.

Once we had all done the first part of the conflict avoidance training (don’t argue basically) we were split up into groups of two or three for the driving part of the training. These would be the groups for the entire duration of training and our instructor would be with us for the entire training. I was paired with a young Asian man who was a taxi driver before wanting a change. We were assigned our instructor and set off to start driving.

This was to be my first ever time driving a bus and what a bus it was! We were to be learning in an old Leyland Lynx single deck bus. It was a very old bus but it was a wonderful workhorse. Our instructor drove it out to a quiet part of town and parked in an old, disused, bus stop on a duel carriageway. We first of all had to learn how to control the bus in a straight line. It’s not as easy as it sounds. The suspension was totally shot and it picked up every pot hole and ripple on the road and transmitted it into the steering wheel. It took a few attempts going down to the island turning round and coming back the other way but I eventually got the hang of it. Once we had both got the hang of driving in a straight line it was time to introduce corners.

It was hard work. You have to remember that for most buses the steering wheels are about six foot BEHIND the driver and that we have another 30ish foot behind that. To counter all of this you had to remember to steer later than you would in a normal car and if the corner was very tight you had to swing wide. I managed to get the hang of this after a few attempts and the usual bounces off the kerb. Ok so now I had done straight lines and corners it was time the other chap to have a go.

I vacated the hot seat and sat down in one of the seats usually occupied by the passengers and tried to relax. Everything that I had learnt was running through my mind and I was trying to remember it all when the other trainee started.

Oh dear. He had never before driven anything this big and it showed. We were hardly ever travelling in a straight line and hitting the kerb every few seconds. It took him a good half hour to finally get it moving in a straight line without myself and the instructor being thrown about the bus. So we did a few laps and then he had to start taking corners and life got even more interesting for us. The guy forgot that the steering wheels were behind him and didn’t wait so we bounced over the kerb. Again and again and again. Finally he got it…or so we thought. He swung too wide this time and the instructor had to step on the duel control brake to stop us before he took out a lamppost on the other side of the road! Needless to say we rent around and around the same corners trying to get it right and almost every time he would swing too wide. Once in a while he would get it right but them on the next lap or even on the next corner he would get it all wrong. It was getting painful being bounced around especially when he got it so wrong we fell out of our seat. Still we carried on and eventually he was able to do two complete laps of our little circuit.

By this time we had to return to our training center which we just about managed without hitting anything and that was the end of the first day. I was struggling to take in all the information but I had enjoyed it and was ready for the next day.

Ask The driver (8)

LittleLaura If you could sing to your customers, what song would it be?

Ah now that’s a good one. Perhaps Queens “Don’t stop me now” would be a good choice

Getgood I have a q you’ve prob been asked b4: what happens to extra cash TWM get from people who don’t have right change?

That’s not as much of a problem as it used to be. I’ll be honest here though. I don’t really know where the money goes to. I would hope that it is used for good things like maintaining the fleet or perhaps a donation to charity every once in a while. Passengers are informed that we don’t give change so they usually have the right money. Before the fare increase to £1.50 I was frequently asked for the change and I told them the same thing we were told in training. If a customer wants their money back then they need to write into head office and give their details

Regengirl My question is, how do you rate TWM’s Safer Travel initiative? Like other readers I’m bothered about how safe it is to travel on buses both as a user of public transport (which marks me out as a freak of nature to petrolhead colleagues) and for work. If the bus routes that serve the areas I’m trying to help regenerate aren’t regarded as being safe then that has all kinds of obvious knock-on effects.

I think that it is a very good idea and works very well when it is used. The routes that have been patrolled on a frequent basis have seen the level of vandalism drop amazingly. Although they are not out there all the time, their presence is known about and everyone seems to behave just a little more. There have been several arrests made and a lot of people have had ASBO’s served against them for vandalism.

 

why is it a bigger crime for a bus to run early than to run late (my husband saw a sign to this effect in one of B’ham’s bus garages when he went to collect his lost wallet)?

Ah for this one you need to understand the 5 minute window that we have. We are allowed to be 1 minute early or up to 4 minutes late. All of the buses have a running board and this gives the exact time that they are supposed to be at certain points along the route. If we are early we are supposed to wait for our time at that point. Now to run early is a major problem as some of the buses are timed to be very close to each other to minimize passenger waiting times. So if one of them is running very early and wont wait at his/her timing point it could cause a missed connection and complaint. To reinforce this TWM can be fined by Centro for not running them on time!

How does the real time passenger information thing (not) work?

Wow you sure do ask a lot of questions. The RTI information is generated at head office. All (I hope) of the buses have a module inside them that is linked to the ticket machine. That contains all the running board information and timings. The RTI box has a GPS system in it that updates the central server about every 30 seconds with where the bus is along its route. This is compared to where the bus should be and this information is then (supposed) to be streamed out to the stops.

Clifford You say drivers have their own way of dealing with drunks – but what is the company policy?

It’s very simple. They are passengers like anyone else. If they cause problems then we are supposed to stop the bus and ask them to get off. If they won’t then we call control and they send assistance. This is usually the police.

 

Well there we have it. Another batch answered. Keep them flowing in please.

I wish mine could do this

Yet another thanks

Yet again someone else has found this blog and linked to it.

So i would like to welcome visitors from The Stirrer who came from here. Sit back, put your feet up, the tea trolly will be around shortly

The Drunk Fighter

Ah now this is a very interesting one. Drivers each have their own way of dealing with drunks on the bus. Some leave them alone, some argue with them and some just don’t let them on. Me I usually choose first option. It won’t get you as much trouble, you are less likely to be assaulted with the fumes from them and it (usually) makes for a quiet bus.

Sadly this won’t always work as some are determined to pick a fight with someone and its usually the chap that least expects it. In this case it was me!

The night duty (why is it always the nights when I get this sort of thing?) saw me driving what was going to be the last bus of the night. All was going very well. I just had to deal with the usual mix of confusion about where the bus went (do you go to town driver?) and oddness. I had made it through the night without any major problems when I saw HIM. He was very obviously drunk out of his skull. I could tell even before he got to the doors that he was going to struggle to even get on the bus. It wasn’t the can of Stella hanging from his hands but the walk that gave him away. For every step forward he would take three backwards and one to the side. It made for interesting viewing as I loaded the rest of the passengers on and waited for him. I was the last bus and could guarantee that if I didn’t wait then someone would complain! So with him safely on the bus and seated (upstairs) off I went.

Nothing much happened for a good while until someone pressed the bell. I promptly stopped at the next stop and waited. No one wanted to get off so I carried on. Suddenly there was this almighty racket as someone almost fell down the stairs.

“Oi driv” slurred the drunk “I wanted that stop”

“Well sir,” (god did I really call him sir) “I stopped but no one got up to get off”

“But oi wanted that stop” now his face was turning red “let me off here”

So I stopped the bus (at a stop I might add) and opened the doors expecting him to get off

“Now get out that cab so I can kick your head in for not stopping” Like that’s ever going to happen

Sigh “Sir I did stop” I did honest “I stopped when the bell was pressed but no one got up to get off” hmm this could take a while I thought. I want to go home and sleep how can I get rid of him?

“But oi wanted dat stop” still slurring “get out here so I can punch you”

Takes a deep breath “Ok sir, tell you what ” oh god I hope this works “Why don’t we step off the bus as blood is hell for the cleaners to get off the floor and we can settle this like men” I look back and spot that another passenger has gotten up and is standing to provide assistance, to who I don’t know.

“alright” The drunk says as he steps off the bus

BANG! I hit the door close and flip the handbrake off as I hit the gas and we shoot away from the stop. He was left there looking very confused.

I look in the mirror and see that most of the rest of the passengers have started to laugh at this. I can’t help myself and start laughing myself. The man that had stood up was almost doubled over laughing his head off. It actually ended the day very well and proved to myself that I can handle drunks if I want to.