A day in the life of (A Bus driver)
How many of us?
Let's face it, how many of us have ended up doing the job we dreamed of as a Kid? Probably not many, and those who did possibly never imagined some of the things they've had to deal with in their 'dream job'
Okay I did end up being a soldier for a while, but that came to an end and I had to move on from there, I did some exciting stuff, but I never imagined that I'd end up in the job that I do at the moment and actually like it!
Actually the word 'like' is a bit too soft as I love the job!
Even I think it's a bit strange really as I never saw myself as someone who'd enjoy a 'normal nine to five job' but then again driving a bus isn't a 'normal' job! it takes a certain breed of person to like it.
What about it?
How it came about
I'll be honest, I never imagined that one day I'd be driving a bus and proud to say that I love it, but I do! and here's why.
I've had my heavy transport license for years. I got it the first time thirty years ago in the Army but bad experiences in the industry after leaving the forces meant that when it expired in 1987 I didn't bother renewing the license, a decision I later regretted.
Around 2007 I got the chance to get the license back and took it as I loved being 'on the road' I was working for a local based company so there wasn't any overnight work involved and things were good. For a few years I worked as a delivery driver for a Plumbing supplies outfit but then the big downturn happened and I ended up being made redundant!
With the license it took me a few days to find a job, but that was working nights at a factory, then a place came up in a stores for a place building Ambulances, I hated the job but the folks were good to work with so I got on with it and even made inquiries about being taken on full time (it was a six month placement) but it didn't work out and a few months later I found myself out of a job again. Then came Go Bus
I went for a presentation about the company and as soon as they found out I had my heavy transport license they let it be known they wanted me (after months struggling to find a decent job it's really good to feel wanted!)
I told them the only problem was that while I had the heavy truck license I didn't have the 'P' or passenger endorsement, their reply was "No problem, we'll help with that" and the next thing I knew they put me on a course they run to do the theory part (normally costs about $900 but they paid for everything) and a few weeks later I did the practical (which was just retaking my car license showing 'situational awareness' or reading the road ahead, you'll be amazed at how much car drivers miss until almost too late!).
As soon as that was done I was behind the wheel getting some experience driving the Buses!
Take a look
What a day! Let's start.
OK, I said this hub was 'a day in the life of a Bus driver' and my day starts pretty early.
My alarm goes off around 5am and I'm usually up and about by about 5.15. Feed the cats (who help to wake me anyway) and Dog, make sure my lunch is packed and breakfast, then out the door around 6 ish
We live about three miles from the Depot so I get my pushbike out and bike to work. I'm going to be sat around all day so I use fact we only have the one car to indulge in something I used to love as a teenager, riding my bike! Nothing too fancy, just a 21 speed Mountain bike that's great for getting to work on.
By the way, if you take to using the car for getting to and from work as a Bus driver expect to put about 20lb on in the first three months! With the bike I didn't!
In the summer it's really great as you get out in the cool morning air and even in the city you've got the scent of the flowers and plant life. You don't notice these things in the car, but just the smell from the flowers and trees as they come to life can be a real tonic (OK, if you get hayfever you might not appreciate it so much!). By the time I'm at work I'm ready for the day and ready for my coffee.
Usually signing on in the morning there's a few of us so some stories of what went on the day before are swapped and generally at least one of us tries to play a joke on one of the others.
Just what we do (even in our Depot!)
By about 6.45 I'm in work and got my schedule for the day. The 'schedule' is my 'Bible' I have to stick to it no matter what as it's actually a legal document.
Most heavy transport is tracked either using a 'logbook' or nowadays using GPS to make sure the drivers are doing what they claim and making sure they take their breaks when they're supposed to. Urban buses are different in that you're never far from your base so you don't need the logbook but you do still need to take regular breaks and you need to keep on a set route. The schedule sets out the route for you and also gives you the timetable of when and where you need to be at any one time during the day.
The first morning runs you usually get the shift workers going to work and some of the schoolkids, I always try to greet the passengers with a cheerful "Hello" and "Thank you" when they get their tickets as well as a "See you later folks" as they get off the bus. Not everyone is a "Morning person" and sometimes you get the cheerful greeting back but other times the money might just be thrown at you with a grunt! They're not being rude, they just don't do mornings well!
One time I was doing the morning run and almost every stop I had to wait at the Bus stop for someone running up the road, Usually a grateful "thank you" can be heard!
As we were coming into town a passenger asked a question that I had to call our ops center for the information, The reply came back but as I took the call over the radio I missed the turning, so telling the passengers "Sorry folks, missed the turning so we've got a little diversion on!" I expected some unimpressed and grumpy passengers but this morning I heard laughing and one said "You gave us a break this morning, we'll give you one!" Within minutes we were back on route and everyone made work on time with a 'smile on their dial'
How safe are you around a bus?
I tell folks "If you like people and driving the you'll make it as a Bus driver!" and it's true. In any one day I'll have about two hundred to two hundred and fifty people through my Bus. Most will be really good folks, but you'll also get the odd grump and sometimes even two on the same bus, then life can get interesting!
By the way the best method of dealing with them is to have a set of rules on your bus and don't waver for anyone! We have our council guidelines on all our buses but passengers on my bus know my rules and the regulars know that any breach and they just might be walking home!
I can have up to sixty people on a busy run, sometimes they'll be speaking up to half a dozen languages, some will be in wheelchairs and others will have prams, without rules chaos would ensue so we have rules and we stick to them, that way everyone can expect to treated with respect!
One time I was loading my passengers for my afternoon run, I had a nearly full bus when a lady came on the bus wanting to get the details of a passenger. I asked her what it was about and she said that he'd caused a fight on the platform and wanted to report him to the Police.
At that point I told the passenger to "Get off the bus" but he refused so I called security, he still refused to get off the bus at which point another passenger stuck his head in the door (he was a big guy) and spoke rather loudly "Oi I want to go home OFF THE @#$$#$@ BUS NOW!" I've never seen anyone run so fast! By the passenger who swore did apologize for using strong language!!!
Not all buses are the same
Breaks, time out!
When driving it's important to take time for a break. For bus drivers and truck drivers it's even more important.
Actually the bus above is one I used to have fun with as she was pretty old, and I would often tell the schoolkids who took her that they were on a vintage bus that was older than their Dad! (the eyes would go as wide as golf balls as 'nothing was that old' in their world! but she was forty years old and still going strong!).
Lunch comes around twelve (four or five hours) and we take an hour. This is the time when the funny stories of the day or the stories of near misses (we get a lot!) are swapped. It's our way of decompressing from being on the road.
Anything from going the wrong way (we drive three or four routes in a day and it's easy to get them mixed up, by the way the Company does get fined when we do it, but they're pretty good and as long as we can say what happened it's usually all good!
I spend a lot of time at work so once a week my wife will come down into town and we'll go for lunch somewhere so that we can catch up. We've got a few favorite places and if you ever get to Hamilton I'll let you know where to go.
In the afternoon my daughter is sometimes on the bus and I'll try and catch up with her on my second break so we can grab a hot chocolate or something.
The time of day everyone looks forward to, the last part of the shift! For me it usually starts around the time school gets out, that's when it's "All hands to the pumps" as we're dealing with getting the last part of the over 65s home (they get free concessions between 9 and 3pm but the ticket machines will let you print the tickets up to 3.10pm) and the schoolkids and for the next two hours most buses will be full.
I'm not talking all seats filled here, but usually about fifteen or twenty standing as well depending on what my loading certificate says!
Mine's timed so I start around 4pm though I do get some earlier shifts.
Actually while on the subject of kids I can tell at a glance from the way the kids behave what school the kids go to!
It might sound surprising but it's true, even on a 'Mufti day' (where the kids are out of uniform) you can tell and it's not according to wealth but the schools themselves!
Most of the schools in NZ have had to stop teaching religion in school, but we've got three secondary schools here that while they're in the state system they belong to church denominations and they refuse to follow that line, they are the kids that I don't have to ask to give up their seats when elderly or women with children get on the bus, they just do it, sometimes with amusing results as the adults are taken totally by surprise! Teaching moral principles is always good!
My day usually ends about 7.30pm when I get back to the yard, fuel up and cash up. Then it's a quick ride home to the family.
What's public transport like for you?
Have you used public transport?
Just a brief outline
This is really just a little about my day and what I do. I spend about 65 hours a week at work so it's important that I actually 'like' what I do (That's one objection the wife had when I started, but at the time I was doing 70 hours a week working nights just to pay the bills!)
What about you?