In case you hadn’t guessed by now I have moved over to the USA and life is a lot different for me. Not only am I having to drive on the other side of the road as well as getting used to the money I have to deal with extreme temperatures.
I am talking about -30 deg F and lower in winter to 110 deg F in the summer. It can be quite a shock when you walk outside from your comfortably heated/air-conditioned house to the outside world. But I have to work in it and deal with the temperatures. Not only is it my own comfort but it is the comfort of my passengers as well. All of the buses that I drive have wonderful heaters it is just a matter of getting them to work quickly and effectively. This comes with practice and a lot of trial and error.
It was almost a month into my first winter driving the bus when I figured out what one of the switches on my dash did. It was a coolant pre heater. I had never heard of these before so I went to find the mechanic and asked him what it was.
“It warms the coolant for you engine and heaters quicker than just running the engine on its own.”
It was like a light bulb went off in my head. I had been starting the bus way earlier than I needed to if I would run this heater. The following day at pre-trip I hit the switch and watched the temperature rise and within five minutes I had warm air coming out of the vents and by the time I collected my first student I had a nice warm bus for them to ride in. It was a wonderful moment for me. I felt great about it. The kids were warm when they arrived at school and this made it a better day for them.
Sadly the other side of the year we can do nothing about it. There are days here where the temperature can reach over 100 deg F in the summer and some of the kids elect to go to summer school. It is only three half days a week but it is in the summer and the buses can get very warm. We do everything that we can to help the kids out. Fans go on to move the air around, the windows get opened as far as we can, even the roof hatches get opened to form a type of scoop for air flow. The schools are great and will hand out water when needed and even go so far as to close the schools when the temperatures are too high to be safe. A lot of them do not have air conditioning and are brick-built so they hold the heat really well. Great in winter but not so good in the summer.
Me, I deal with the heat in my own way. Shorts and short sleeve shirts are the dress of the day and staying in the shade as much as possible. I have also found out that the fans we have at the front of the bus are great for air movement and turbocharging the warm air straight into your face but not so good at cooling you down on the hottest days. The best thing that I found is to have it pointed away so the warm air is blown away from my face and I get air movement. But the best thing I have found is just to keep drinking water. I know everyone says that in the hot weather but it really does help. I make sure that I always have on the bus with me a flask of water and It has helped in more ways than one.
I had one of my kids get on my bus looking a little unwell and as the ride went on (they were one of the last off BTW) my aide comes up to the front when we are dropping another child off and tells me that this one does not look at all well and she thinks that it might be the start of a heat related illness. Well the first thing that I thought of was my drink. So I reach down and look and see that i have a little over half left and about two-thirds of the route left to run. I take a drink and hand it to my aide, after wiping the rim off of course, and say to her to make sure that the child takes small sips only until they get off the bus. They managed to make it last until the childs stop. While I was driving I had radioed the base and asked them to call the childs parents and meet us at the stop as they usually just wave from the window. They bought out a glass of water and helped them off the bus.
I saw the childs parents again a couple of days later and they thanked me for what I did. It turned out that the child was dehydrated and shortly after they arrived home and drinking a lot of fluids they felt a lot better.