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This article has been kindly written by Bert Symons, who was a Bus/Coach Driving Instructor for Plymouth Citybus. We hope you find this interesting.

A day in the life of a Bus Driver

 

What is a Bus Driver?

·           To a passenger he / she is a professional driver who takes them from A to B safely.  He/she is also a social worker listening to the tales of woe and the highlights of peoples lives.  He/she is the school child chaperon, the driver who takes folks to a night out and then brings them back and they throw up all over him/her.  He/she is also the information point for all manner of enquiries, some quite unsavoury ones too.  The passenger assumes the Bus Driver to be the consummate Professional.   Little do they know the driver may have only had the Bus Licence for about two or three weeks in some cases, but none the less we trust their judgement.

·           To another Professional Driver the bus or coach driver is someone who shares the same road traffic problems and trusts them to help in sorting a traffic problem in tight circumstances

·           To the everyday motorist….the bus driver is seen as a necessary evil and a problem that has to be dealt with, often in a not too nice way.  This is not so of all motorists; there are goodly number who will help a bus driver in time of need, at a the scene of an RTA or similar and in most traffic situations

·           THE BUS DRIVER……….the all time consummate professional, the all knowing person in the bus seat, the one who spends eight to ten hours a day driving a bus up to twelve tons (without passengers 15 to a ton) in town traffic and for that they get a 45 minute break

·           It is fair to say that not all Bus Drivers are as professional as they might be in their approach to the job inside or outside the vehicle.  Though all of them, throughout Great Britain are taught to drive a bus to the same high standards as that expected of an advanced driver and better

·           When dealing with traffic, the main source of a bus drivers work day, he / she is taught to drive with patience and consideration for other drivers and passengers.  In traffic situations they are taught simple things like…..if the gap looks too small…..it is.  Don’t become part of or create a traffic situation, better way is to hang back and see what develops.  If it turns good, fine, if it turns sour you have at minimum kept yourself, your vehicle and your passengers safe

·           Bus driver and lorry driver training from an Instructor’s point of view can be easy or can be hard, depending on how the person in the seat approaches the job.  As an Instructor I found part of my work was to re-educate a “licenced” driver how to think big and not take chances where they don’t really exist.  Also to get the “newbie bus driver / lorry driver” to realise that they have to be the eyes and ears and brain not only for their own drive but for that of other drivers too

·           Bus drivers have a lot to contend with in a day’s work. Sign on at 0500 hrs maybe, official vehicle checks before starting off. Set up destination blinds, set up ticket machine, consider diversions, make sure the wrist watch is right.  Follow a set route, know fares and bus stops, know traffic regulation surrounding bus drivers and driving, attend a 5 yearly refresher course to attain and retain the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence that gives the right to use the bus licence for gain.  So much more of a job than the travelling public and the motorist can imagine

 

To be a Bus Driver: Using the licence for gain (wage or otherwise)

 To drive a bus you must first have a full car driving licence and then obtain a provisional bus driving licence.   To start training for the bus licence a driver has to pass a two part theory test and also a two part driving test (ability and demonstration).  When completed the new bus driver, to retain his/her nice new licence has to achieve 35 hours Driver Certificate of Professional Competence over the next five years.  This is ongoing.  No CPC? You retain your bus licence but cannot drive for hire or reward

 The average training is two up for three weeks.  Some drivers need much less time and others a lot more.  Whatever the case in the training time for the licence they will learn how the vehicle works, the rules surrounding work hours, the use of a digital tachograph and do hours of practical driving in all types of traffic conditions and all types of road, including a fast road, town road and countryside roads

 Beyond the test training time the training continues.  In the post test training the “new bus driver” will learn further appropriate rules surrounding bus work, how to use the ticket machine, set up destination blinds, what duty cards are all about and how to read them, how to read timetables, rules for lost property, how to deal with unruly passengers, disabled passengers, children and others in general

 There is also a need to learn routes, time pinch points, where bus stops are, normal diversion routes, breakdown procedure, radio procedure, maintenance repairs reporting, the 24 hour clock and so much more, just to arrive at a bus stop at an appointed time and leave again to destination

 Practical driving development continues during the post test period and with all the other elements will last in general for around another three weeks.

 From the day of job application through interview, acceptance, licence application, theory and driving test training time to post-test training can be as much eight to twelve  weeks.  It’s a long haul but 98% will tell you initially at least that it has all been worthwhile.  Success, enjoyment and retention for a bus driver in particular will depend a lot on how the Instructor approached the training sessions with each individual, recognising individuals’ needs tied in with the common problems that are so often experienced

 Bus driving is not a job for the feint hearted and should not be in any way other than in a professional manner, both from the new driver and the Instructor

 

Problems in Bus Driving in Relation to Other Road Users

 

Passengers who become road users

It’s not unknown for a passenger to get off a bus and immediately cross in front of their bus and walk into the path of an oncoming vehicle.  If there is a collision of this manner the bus driver is automatically involved.  There have been many instances where a bus driver has stopped this happening by checking the offside mirror and sounding the bus horn

 Pulling into and out of Bus Bays

Probably one of the more hazardous parts of the job.  Pulling into a bus bay has to be done at low speed, as a result the back end of a bus seems to take so long in clearing a road.  The bus driver has to stop within 4 inches of a kerbside to accommodate safe entry and exit of the bus of passengers on foot or in a wheelchair.  Sometimes pulling into a bus stop or bay fully or at all is impossible due to cars or vans being parked where they should not.

 Pulling out of a bus bay or away from a kerbside bus stop can be just as much of a problem.  If there is an obstruction in the bay or at the stop the driver has to apply more steering to get round the problem, the rear nearside on most modern buses will pivot quickly by about a metre and swipe anything too close, this includes cyclists.  More forward space is also needed to accommodate the length of a bus, so the driver may need to use the opposing carriageway to complete the moving off manoeuvre

 Normal Driving Needs

If normal exists!!  One of the things that is majored on in training is the use of mirrors. That is exterior and interior mirrors.  The internal mirrors have no use in road work, they are primarily for watching passenger movement.  This is something that has to be considered when braking accelerating and steering. How a bus driver reacts with controls can often be determined by the actions of another motorist and can have devastating effects on passenger safety.

 Most city type buses are either semi-automatic or fully automatic gearboxes.  As a result the delays between gear changes experienced in manual vehicles are non-existent in today’s buses.  This means that a lot of buses, on the flat, can be as fast as the average car when moving off.  It has been known to catch out some motorists who are “trying to beat the bus” away from traffic lights etc

 The use of mirrors in a bus driver’s day is crucial and has saved many problems. External mirrors are used when pulling into and out of bus bays.  Pulling in to ensure the back of the bus is clear of the kerb or any nearside obstruction, including a vehicle, cyclist, protruding kerb edge and so much more.  Pulling out of a bay or stop the mirrors have two uses.  One is to ensure there are no running passengers on the nearside which diverts the attention slightly as he/she then checks the offside for the gap in the traffic that is needed.  There is quite often a check back to the nearside before proceeding too far

 Normal forward driving for a Bus Driver is anything but, especially in towns and cities.  A lot depends on the behaviour of other road users and that includes cyclists, motorists of all types, wheelchair users, Motability scooters and pedestrians of all ages.  A special problem is the pedestrian who wants to end life and quite literally walks in front of an oncoming bus at the last moment.  The Driver has this to deal with for the rest of his/her life and as an Instructor it has been to down me or a colleague to pick up the mental pieces

  As well as dealing with other motorists, the bus driver’s work, “passengers,” can also create a problem either on the bus, getting on or off and running for the bus.  On the bus the passenger will get up and move around and this is where the actions of a motorist can create a problem.  Someone swerving in front of the bus or braking suddenly or harshly can have that concertina effect and can throw a passenger up into the bulkhead of the bus or up against hand support bars as the driver reacts

 At a bus stop a bus driver prepares to move into traffic….offside, glance forward on the sweep, nearside and offside mirrors again and one quick final check to the nearside as the bus enters the traffic flow for running passengers.  Imagine, you’re trying to break into traffic flow and someone is running alongside the bus and banging on the side for you to stop.  Instant decision time; do I stop or continue, will the passenger fall under the wheels, will I collide with a vehicle, has someone given way, will I create a traffic problem if I stop for the passenger?  You decide

 BUS LANES (or least that’s what they are called)

Bus lanes now accommodate not just buses, but cyclists, motor cyclists, emergency vehicles taxis and any bus type vehicle with more than 9 seats.  This list in itself creates so many extra problems for the bus driver.  Cyclists are the most vulnerable and quite often don’t consider their own safety when in a bus lane either by riding in an awkward position or sneaking up the nearside of a bus.  Because of the superb straight-line of a bus body, the mirrors give good rearward vision, even so a cyclist can easily be hidden and get crushed.  The rear of the bus is so remote from the driver, on newer coaches 15 metres away, it’s easy to hit something and not know it.  Nearly all buses now are fitted with active CCTV and often up to eight cameras on the outside of the bus and three or four per deck inside

 Motorcyclists pose a separate problem.  In Plymouth our motorcyclists not only use the bus lanes to beat traffic queues but also to do it at much higher speeds than the road speed limit

 Taxis.  The problem here is when a taxi pulls up in a bus lane to set down or pick up a fare or does their shopping etc it’s not unknown

 Emergency vehicles create a whole new set of problems. In Plymouth we have a special relationship with all of the emergency services.  There are times when bus drivers cannot make way for the emergency vehicle, but there are times when the bus driver can “rightly or wrongly” use his/her vehicle to create a gap for the emergency vehicle.  Bus drivers are mad aware of the national guidelines for dealing with emergency vehicles.

 

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Driving and Drowsiness – A Dangerous Combination

 

Being drowsy whilst driving is a major problem in the UK, and it’s enough to test even the safest and most experienced of drivers. Drowsy driving usually happens when you have not slept enough, but can also occur due to untreated sleep disorders, taking medications, or even shift work. It can affect you at any time, as it’s difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when sleep comes over the body. Just as driving while intoxicated is risky and dangerous, not to mention illegal, drowsiness makes you less able to pay attention to the road, slows your reaction time particularly if you need to break or steer abruptly, and affects your ability to make sound driving decisions. We are all aware of the common dangers associated with driving while alert, such as other cars failing to signal and low visibility, but drowsiness is an equally dangerous way to hurt yourself and other drivers around you. A lack of sleep accounts for approximately 20% of all crashes on main roads here in the UK, so don’t be a statistic, pull over to rest or change drivers if you feel any warning signs coming on. 

Legally Responsible

In the UK, if you have a car accident whilst sleep deprived, the law will make you accountable. Although the courts have some deal of flexibility on this matter, if you are charged with dangerous driving, and by definition this means driving in a way that is below the minimum acceptable standard and poses a risk to personal injury or safety, then you will be charged. While a judge’s sentence may vary depending on the amount of damage caused by an accident, at the very minimum your license will be revoked. A prison sentence of up to five years is also possible, even if no serious injury or harm has been done. It is clear to see that the UK judicial system takes driving whilst drowsy very seriously.

 

Is It That Common?

Surprisingly, driving whilst tired is more common than one would think. What would seem as something that is easily avoidable by following a regular pattern of sleep and ensuring your energy levels are stable, driving whilst tired happens more often than imagined. For example, if you are looking forward to an event or a special occasion and are unable to sleep through the night, you may well find yourself sleep deprived in the morning. This poses potential risks to your driving skills, including excessive speeding, or worse, nodding off at the wheel.

Most accidents occur between the hours of 2-6am, even amongst those who are sober. At this time of the day, most people are relaxed and a bit more carefree with their driving as the roads are generally quieter. This is when drivers lose control of their vehicles and crash as their focus is not on other vehicles around them.  

 

Commercial drivers – those who operate tow trucks and buses, for example, are particularly vulnerable during this time of the day, and for two main reasons. Firstly, commercial drivers tend to either be on a delivery deadline or need to return to their base depot, and because of this, they rarely break through the night and get the rest they need. Secondly, and as the Freight Transport Association points out, there is a lack of rest-stop facilities for commercial drivers on UK motorways. The Association describes this shortage as a mistake and an example of how money and business will always win over common sense and personal safety.

The Warning Signs of Drowsy Driving

There is a difference between being tired and being too tired to drive, and it’s something that can hit you at any time. You may start on an all-day car journey perfectly fine and alert, but as the journey progresses you can easily start to feel tired.

The National Sleep Foundation has identified a few symptoms to watch out for which can help you determine when to take a rest break. Some of these symptoms include:

·         - Struggling to focus accompanied by frequent blinking and heavy eyelids

·         - Daydreaming and keeping your focus

·        -  Difficulty remembering the last distances driven

·        -  Missing your exit and drifting from your lane

·        -  Repeated yawning and irritability

 

If it feels as though you are suffering from one or more of these symptoms, find a safe place to pull off on the side of the road, such as a resting spot. If you have another person in the vehicle who is licensed and insured to drive, ask them to take over. Just remember not to panic if you feel any of these symptoms as increased fear means there is a generally a higher risk of crash.

Although drinking coffee can help in small doses, it is best not to rely on it as a solution to your drowsiness as too much caffeine can make a driver experience lapses in concentration and slower reaction times. Coffee consumption is only to be used as a quick fix and not as a substitute for regular breaks. The best advice is to stay calm and exercise caution and good judgement so you can get to your destination safely and securely.

Article written and kindly supplied to us by Justin Fox

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Unusual driving laws from around the world

During Road Safety week, road safety charity Brake and insurance firm Aviva brought to light the dangers we face while driving every day. According to a recent survey from Aviva, four in five drivers think they’re a safe driver, although more than a third don’t recognise basic road signs, and a third of drivers still use their phones behind the wheel.

Richard Coteau, Corporate Fundraising Manager from Brake highlighted that: “From our research and surveys, we know that driver distraction affects people, even more with many admitting that the temptation to update social media is too much to resist.”

Aviva conducted some research, looking into road safety around the world, highlighting what the safest countries are doing, such as Sweden and Finland – two countries which have some of the safest roads in the world. With the help of Aviva, we looked at how other countries around the world keep their roads and road users safe, and picked out some of the most unusual road rules.

 

Russia: Keep your car clean

Drivers have to keep up their vehicle’s appearances in Russia, as it could lead to a 2,000 ruble fine. This was originally set up so license plates are always visible.

Mind the gap in Singapore

Watch out for pedestrians, as it’s against the law for drivers to come within 50 metres of them.

In South Africa give way to herds

Herds have as much right to the roads as drivers and other road users. Drivers could face a stiff fine if they don’t give way to passing livestock.

Safety first in Turkey

It’s important drivers carry a fire extinguisher, reflective triangle and first aid kit, otherwise there’s risk of a fine.

Italy’s increased nighttime fines

Drivers caught committing serious driving offences between 10pm and 7am could find themselves being fined an extra third of the daytime fine.

No topless driving in Thailand

Try to keep your clothes on in Thailand! It’s illegal and drivers could face a fine if they don’t have a top on.

France: Slow down when it rains

When the heavens open in France, drivers are required to reduce their speed by 10km/hour on rural and dual carriageways, and a 20km/hour reduction on motorways.

To find out more about road safety around the world, read through Aviva’s Safe Driving hub, with useful guides and expert opinions.

 

Kindly supplied to us by Aviva Insurance