Ask The Driver (14)

A bumper crop of questions for me this week. Here I go with the answers.

 

Rachelcreative Where do bus drivers go on holiday? And how do they get there? ;o)

Well this is a question that I have been waiting for someone to ask. Most of the garages that I know of usually organize some sort of summer trip over the weekend. We take over a hotel. The best bit is that the preferred mode of transport is a bus. Sometimes it’s a rented one and I have heard of one garage just borrowing one for the weekend with the drivers rotating who drives.

 

Bounder do busses have speed-limiters? If so how fast, if not how fast do you think you could get up to?

Some of them do and they are set anywhere from 42mph to 55mph. During part of my training I had to drive a Lynx on the motorway and I managed to get it all the way up to 65mph and it felt like it was going to fly apart.

 

Peteashton Does a bus handle differently when it’s empty to when it’s full?

Oh yeah it sure does. The whole bus gets lower and the steering is a lot heavier. The ride does get a little softer but it takes a lot longer to pull away from the stop. It also takes a lot longer to stop. Once you are used to it though you hardly notice the difference.

What’s the official policy on pulling away b4 everyone seated?

The official word is to make sure that everyone is seated but it is accepted to pull away before everyone has their seats as if we were to wait for everyone to sit down the bus would always be late. If someone asks me to wait then I will wait. I always take great care when I pull away from a stop to make sure that no one loses their footing.

 

Podnosh is their a sick cleaning squad who will come and sluice out your bus half way round the inner circle?

I have never heard of one but that’s a great idea. The last time someone was sick on my bus I had to drive it all the way to the end of my run and then back to the garage. Ill have to mention that to someone.

Littlelaura If you could choose or add to your bus’s features for benefit of passengers – what would they be?

Now this is great. There are a lot of things that I would like to add to the bus to make life for the passenger easier and safer. How about seatbelts for a start. I bet you didn’t know that even the driver doesn’t have one! Next what about a heating/air-con system that is well maintained and actually works. Headphones for the music players that don’t have them. Ejector seats for those that still don’t use them. Comfortable seats for the passengers and driver. A trap door for those that won’t pay so they can just be deposited off the bus. A better gearbox would be wonderful as would smoother engines. Wipers that don’t squeak and heated windscreens. Those are just a few things that I would like. Oh and quicker doors.

 

Watfordgap would you swap driving in the urban west midlands for driving in a rural place?

I thought about this for a long while and actually I would like to swap for a rural area. Here in the city the pace of life always seems to be very fast and that makes for short tempers when things go wrong. My experience in the country is that it is a little easier going. It could also provide a great challenge to drive a bus down some of those little country lanes to get to some of the more remote places but I do love a challenge.

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Driving in the snow

Some of you may remember the snow that we had a while ago. I was one of the fortunate drivers that had to go out in it and manhandle a bus through the ice and snow and it was a very interesting experience.

My evening (oh yeah it was the night duty as well how wonderful (!)) started out pretty badly with my bus arriving on time but going the wrong way. It was heading for the outer terminal point and I was supposed to take over heading to the inner terminal. Great already over an hour late and to add to everything it started to snow again. Ah well I suppose I had better head off. Having said that getting to the bus was a job in itself and I almost fell over several times. Once safely in it was time to tackle the nightmare roads.

The going was pretty tough. All of the major roads that I use were clogged solid with snow and traffic so it was stop start all the way. Or perhaps I should say it was slide… slide some more stop spin wheels spin wheels some more lurch forward. It was not good. Everyone was sliding around and no-one seemed to understand what was going on. In the middle of all this chaos I had to somehow keep my bus on the road and manage to safely transport the passengers to their destination. One of our double deckers weighs in at 15 tons WITHOUT passengers. The average family car weighs in at just over 1 ton so my bus without passengers weighs 15 times as much. With a full load it can top the scales at over 20 tons. That’s a lot of inertia once it’s got going.

So there I am with my 15+ ton bus watching the car drivers slide all over the place and I’m sitting there thinking “oh god” my training did not cover driving on snow at all. I had a little experience in cars but this was totally different. If this thing got into a slide there was not a lot that I could do to stop it.

All was going very well the major roads, although jammed solid with traffic were ok if a little slippery and then I hit my first hill! Oh boy was it a problem for the cars. They were spinning up their wheels like crazy and only just managing to get up it. Fortunately there was a stop just before the start so I was able to take a few moments and think how I was going to tackle the hill. The problem with the bus was I needed to keep it in a low gear for the hill but it would automatically change up at a set speed, so I just had to keep on and off the throttle and using the kick-down as much as possible to keep the revs high and stop the wheels from spinning. And away I slid. It was hard work and the engine did not thank me at all for it but I made it up the hill. Now the only problem now was I had to get down the other side without hitting anything or anyone and the road was curved with very high kirb stones on it. Usually I would just let the bus roll down the hill and keep it under control by gently touching the brakes when needed. This time was much different as I knew that when I touched the brakes I would have little or no steering control and there was a very high chance of the wheels locking up on me which would send me straight to the scene of the accident. As I very tentatively started my way down the hill I watched a HGV trying to work its way up the other side and saw its wheels spinning and the trailer not behaving at all. It almost jackknifed and the look on the drivers face is not one that I will forget in a while. It is one of almost sheer terror.

I was by now almost half way down the hill and approaching the corner and knew that I would have to slow right down or I would never make it. I gently touched the brakes, the anti-lock system started working overtime the pedal vibrating like crazy and then I felt it. The bus lost traction, the wheels locked up and I started to slide. The back end went first starting to slide out to the right straight into the path of the oncoming traffic. I did what every driving manual will tell you to do and steered into the slide. I caught it and the bus was back straight and on the correct side of the road but still heading towards the corner. I tried again and this time the wheels locked and I slid in a straight line. Better but not what I wanted. The third time I didn’t give the ABS time to react I just pumped the brake pedal with my foot and it worked I slowed down and just made the corner my wheels just grazing the kirb. It was not the best experience in the world but one I will always remember. Having tackled the worst hill on my route I felt prepared for the rest and applied the same tactics to those and just about manages to get through it all. All the while the radio was crackling with messages that roads were closed and there were lots of accidents and people leaving their cars behind. Eventually it got to the point where we were informed that the management had called an emergency meeting to decide if the services needed to be recalled back to garage.

Sadly by the time they had got to the office the snow was already starting to melt and it was getting a lot easier to drive along the main roads so the word came back down that we were to be careful and use our heads when negotiating the trickier sections of road. So all I had to do now was to get to the terminal point and turn around and go back. I did eventually get there. 2 ½ hours late though. I was so late I was 5 mins early for the NEXT run. The run back wasn’t too bad as all the traffic had cleared a route and the snow had started to turn into slush. I did have to modify the route slightly to avoid a couple of bad side roads but I told control about it and didn’t miss too much. It was what I would call an interesting evenings driving and one I hope never to repeat.

New Business Opportunity for TWM

My wonderful partner pointed me in the direction of THIS article when I got home from work today saying

“Awww see nice things do happen on the buses”

And I agree. This is a wonderful thing and I wish the couple all the best.

Perhaps TWM or NXWM as it is now called should think about doing this more often. I know the new buses are not that good looking but the older ones at the transport museum are wonderful and for the most part still run so perhaps they could be used. Perhaps they are? I’m sure that someone will correct me if I am wrong

Ask The driver (13)

Pigsonthewing Were you into buses before you became a driver?

Actually not really. I had done a lot of jobs before becoming a driver but hadn’t really thought of it as a career.

Do you like vintage buses?

I love them. Some of them are so well maintained. I saw a very old one a couple of days ago and wondered what it would be like to driver them. I can only imagine the noise as the one I saw was being driven by an engineer with ear protectors on.

What’s your view of bus enthusiasts?

I know quite a few. Most of them are fine just normal people that happen to like buses a lot. Then there are the scary ones. These are the ones that take it to the extreme. Travelling hours just to catch that elusive number that they don’t yet have. Those I don’t like at all.

 

Watfordgap What’s the most unusual thing you had to remove someone from your bus for?

Usually the only thing I remove people for is being an idiot while drunk and not paying the fare I have not really had anything weird that warranted being removed from the bus for

Littlelaura Has anyone paid for their ticket in a big pile of 1p’s only?

Oh yeah lots of times. This usually jams the cash chute and takes ages to clear but by far the worst is paying for a daysaver with them. That’s a total nightmare and takes ages as the chute will only take about 40p in them at any one time.

Red Van Man

Following on from my earlier post about road rage I thought that I would put this up. It was an interesting moment for me and highlights how easy it would be to lose my temper.

All had been going very well during my duty and I was almost at the end of my last run before taking the bus back to the garage for the night. The traffic was stationary on a narrow part of my route just before a light controlled pedestrian crossing. As we started to move slowly forward I spotted in the corner of my mirror some movement and turned my head to get a better look. It was a good job that I did as a red van sped out from behind me (in my blind spot) and started to overtake. The traffic in front of me had moved about 3 foot forward and I had already rolled up to close the gap. The van kept on coming seemingly oblivious to the oncoming traffic and pulled in sharply in front of me, or tried to. There just wasn’t enough room for him to get into the gap that didn’t exist so he ended up at an angle blocking me from moving forward and traffic coming the other way.

“This isn’t going to end well” I thought.

I was right, it went straight to really bad.

The man driving the red van was almost as red as his van when he got out and stormed over to my window.

“What the f**K do you thing you are doing” He spat out

I kept quiet as no matter what I said this guy was on a rampage “Your flasher was on and that’s why I went round you. Then you go an F****** move forward and I nearly kill myself”

At this point I simply shut the window as he was getting really annoyed and the traffic had moved further forward so I simply released the handbrake and drove (carefully) past his van. I really wanted to get away from this guy as I was starting to get worried. He was worked up and nothing seemed to stop him.

It was only a short trip to the last stop and I was hoping that he would have gone by the time I had checked the bus for the run back to the garage but I was in for a hell of a shock

He had followed me! Yeah, he had followed me just to try and get even for what I hadn’t done. Ok now I was really scared. He got to the stop just as my last passenger had gotten off so I just about managed to get the door shut in time.

“Oi F*** Face” he yelled as he pounded on the door “Get out here”

Yeah, the last thing I was going to do was open the door to this idiot that had taken offence to a situation that he had created. I rammed the bus into drive (hurting my finger as I did so) and floored it away from him. The bus lurched forwards and slowly started to pick up speed. It was not one of the fastest vehicles but at least I was moving. The man, however, had decided that he was going to be even more of an idiot and jumped back into his van and started to follow me again. By now I was really scared and wondering what to do. My brain was working overtime trying to plan a route back to the garage that didn’t involve any traffic lights at all when I hit upon a startling idea. I hit the radio’s emergency button and got control on the air.

“Receiving”

“Control some idiot in a red van is following me and has already tried to attack me at the terminal point”

“Ok have you got the reg”

“Yes its XXXX”

“Ok what do you want us to do?” YES this was the answer I wanted. I

“Can you call the police and get them to meet us at the depot please”

“OK can you give an ETA please”

“Yeah about 20 mins if I take the long route 10 if I take the short”

“take the long it will give them time to arrive”

“Roger”

So off I went twisting and turning making sure that I missed all lights heading back to the garage. The van stayed with me for about 5 more mins and then he must have either calmed down or got bored with waiting for me to stop and pealed off at a junction.

“Control” I radio’d in

“Receiving”

“The nutter has gone and im enroute to the depot”

“Roger, We will call the police off. Do you want them to take a statement”

“Yeah but can I do it tomorrow I am shook up and need a drink asap”

“Roger that Ill get them to call you”

And that was the end of it. It was a very scary time for me and the following day I realized what he had done. Close to where I was stopped (about 20 yards in front of me) there was a pedestrian crossing. Its lights had just gone from red to flashing amber and that was what he thought was the turn signal for my bus! If control hadn’t have responded the way they did then there would have been a big problem when I got back to the depot so credit where its due they did the right thing that time around. Me, I could have dealt with the situation a little better I suppose. But then you can always say that with hindsight.

Erm….What??

One of my followers joannageary posted a tweet about THIS hearing that TWM (or NXWM as it is now known) held.

It made me think for a while and I remember a question that someone asked me during an interview when I was looking for another job a while ago.

“How do you go to the toilet?”

My answer at the time was very quick “I dont” and that is still true. I spend upto seven hours a day behind the wheel and dont go to the toilet. Needless to say my partner has realised that its a good idea to stay out of my way when I come home.

The problem is there are very few places that will allow us to use the restrooms unless we make a purchase and sometimes it is pratically impossible to get to and from the toilet in the break that we have. On a lot of the routes that we run there are no places for us to take a “comfort” break and even if there was the procedure is amazingly complex. We have to radio control and ask for permission “please sir can i go to the toilet please” Some routes are lucky and go right past the garage so its not a big deal if the driver needs to nip in. If the route doesnt then an inspector has to be sent out to the location to wait with the bus so the driver can “go”. This can take a very long time to arrange and by the time the inspector has arrived the drivers bladder has exploded. The main problem is the complete lack of facilities at terminal points on the routes. There are some but the are usually public restrooms and who really want to use them? If we could somehow get driver only facilities at some of the major points then it would make the drivers life a lot easier and happier.

I need to start charging for these

Once again I have been interviewed.  

The interview is HERE so please go and have a read.

A very big thank you to Brummie Broad for respecting my privacy and being so patient with me.