Author Topic: Driving the bus  (Read 7600 times)

Offline busnut_texas

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Driving the bus
« on: May 11, 2007, 07:28:57 PM »

I have what may be a stupid question. Given that I have never driven a bus before, should I invest in lessons of some kind or is it standard to be educated 'on-site' when I purchase a bus? I have read some posts that seem to imply the latter, but I wanted to ask.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same." -  Maryanne Williamson


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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #1 on: May 11, 2007, 07:35:19 PM »
Just take it slow and easy the first time. You might want to find a big parking lot to practice things like shifting and braking so you can get a feel of what is expected. Each rig is a little differant, so don't be afraid to ask questions.
If you can find someone that owns a bus that would be able to help you out that would be great. Otherwise Just think of yourself driving some else's car, get familiar with the way it handles.

I remember when I was just out of high school, I got a job driving a school bus for a private school, I thought it was huge and boy was I driving with white knuckles for a long time. When I picked up my Eagle memories came back and I thought, this is really cool. I get to feel good about one thing, IT'S ALL MINE! What a feeling!

Happy Trails,




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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #2 on: May 11, 2007, 07:42:18 PM »
If you have ever driven a Ryder truck with a 28' box, then it isn't that different except for getting used to air brakes and how to manuever while sitting forward of the steering axle.  To me that latter one was the biggest learning curve.  But I quickly got accustomed to it.  Just my experience and opinion, your mileage may vary.  

However you choose to do it, be extra careful until you are used to it.  (actually, always be extra careful driving a big heavy bus.)


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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #3 on: May 11, 2007, 07:49:33 PM »
Some technical/vocational schools offer an RV driving course.  I assume you must bring your own RV unlike the truck driving courses.

Offline wvanative

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2007, 07:53:31 PM »

I have seen adds for training to get you acquainted with driving a bus, but it wasn't cheap. I'm thinking $400 to $800 for a short course of a day or so. But most guys just ask a lot of questions when they pick it up and learn on the way home. Also you can do a search here on site for driving and learn a lot as a lot of the guys here drive buses and trucks for a living.

Dean Hamilton Villa Grove, IL East Central IL. Near Champaign
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Offline jjrbus

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #5 on: May 11, 2007, 07:56:27 PM »
If your bus has air brakes, go to the DMV and get a copy of the CDL manual and learn about air brakes. You do not need a CDL but need to know about air brakes. Do a web search and read up on air brakes. What you do not know can kill you.
 Here is a link to start,
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Offline Connel

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #6 on: May 11, 2007, 08:14:08 PM »
Anyone living around the Austin area want to step up and volunteer to help Jeremy learn to drive his new toy?

Jeremy, I would be glad to help but am 6+ hours north of you .  Like was stated earlier go to a large parking lot at a local mall and practice parking, backing, turning using the white lines for guides.  When I sold my first bus I took the purchaser to a huge parking lot and let him practice, practice, practice.

Good Luck!
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Offline superpickle

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #7 on: May 11, 2007, 08:18:17 PM »
You will cut the Curb almost every time for the first few and you might take out a few small signs or pedestrians toes ::)

Stay off narrow streets.
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Offline bobsw

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #8 on: May 11, 2007, 08:40:24 PM »
just rember to breathe  When I picked up my last bus I had to keep telling myself to relax and breathe. After about 25 to 30 miles all was good.  Have fun.
73 MCI-7

Offline Hartley

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #9 on: May 11, 2007, 09:08:03 PM »
Buses handle like really big long station wagons.

I would rather drive a bus than any of those stretch limo's any day.

Wide turns and all.

Do not even think that you can do a U-Turn on a 4-lane .... Most won't make it without 3 to 6 point turns.

Learn your mirrors and how to use them. 90% of driving is looking in the mirrors.

A Bus will literally go where you point it... Be careful of the corners....

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Offline Melbo

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #10 on: May 11, 2007, 09:13:35 PM »
The big thing that I took a while to learn is that the forward turn and backward turn are of different radius's as odd as that may seem and it will make a HUGE difference if you maneuver into a tight spot and want to get out. Just my experience Hope This Helps Your Mileage May Vary.

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Offline NJT 5573

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2007, 10:46:43 PM »
Jeremy, after you study up on air brakes and know how to adjust them if you have manual slacks you can start working on the driving. Sit in the seat with the bus positioned in a parking lot and spend some serious time dialing in the mirrors. When driving I break a few of the rules about turning. I always take more room than I really need. Sometimes I will block several lanes until I get what I feel comfortable with, most people will give me a break when they see what I'm trying to do. A bus will not stop on a dime and give you back a nickel, so you need to put extra thought into following distances and reading traffic as you drive. Anytime I don't feel comfortable I slow down. If I'm tired I slow down. I think a beginner should stay in the slow lane as much as possible and let traffic overtake you so you get a feel of your rig. Todays aerodynamics on semis will pull and push your bus around on the road. My Eagle will pull a loaded semi a foot or more to my lane as I start to come along side them. I've found if I swerve a couple feet into their lane from about 100 feet back it straightens the air flow enough to keep them in their lane as I pass. (Dale Earnhart taught me how to see air, (Daytona)! I never change lanes without looking twice, thats the rule. If you don't have a Jake or Retarder you never go down a hill any faster then you went up it. Try to avoid letting air get between the brake shoes and the drums in the middle of a hill, steady light brake pressure all the way to the bottom if you can. If you let air (oxygen) get between the shoes and drums you have the main ingredients for a brake fire. Get a CDL manual and learn to name all the parts on a walk around inspection of your bus and do the inspection every time you stop. As a driver you will be subjected to many "In the Bus Emergencies", (wife, kids, lots of stuff hitting the floor, etc). As a driver you must ignore all of these disturbances and totally focus on your job, driving safely. If you stop always stop on the right hand side of the road. My safety vest rides on the front dash, I don't get out on the highway without it on. Many bus engines run on the hot side in the hills, a good driver always drops a gear and cools, (breathes) the engine just before you reach the top of the hill. That keeps it from cooling to fast on the down hill side and cracking the heads. I've seen a lot of trucks pull to the shoulder of the road after it has rained and sink to the axels in the mud so it takes a lot of thought to get me to take any piece of heavy equiptment off the black top. Got some rules for kids and adult passengers too, no one gets out when the bus stops on the highway or in rest areas without permission, the bus is not always stopped in a safe zone and I have the responsibility to make sure no one steps out into 70 MPH traffic when they are half asleep. If there is any chance of rain I use RAIN X on the windshield, I love that stuff.
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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #12 on: May 13, 2007, 12:53:30 PM »
Jeremy, being a new driver myself I can't add much to the good bit of advice you've already received except to advise you on right hand turns based on some of my experience.

It will invariably happen to's happened to most of us...

Picture yourself and your bus approaching an intersection where your desire is to turn right...let's assume it's a busy intersection with a traffic light.  There is no dedicated right turn lane and the perpendicular street is also two lane and reasonably busy.

You'd like to think that you'd want to be toward the left side of your lane and in order to clear your rears you'll need to hold your turn a bit long and then increase your turn rate sharply to clear the rears.  That's all fine except that the young driver in the left lane of the intersecting street has a cell phone in their ear and isn't the slightest bit concerned in your situation. As you ease around the corner the light changes and the driver under your nose bolts for the green and no one in the oncoming lane has any sympathy for you.  If your rears are clear..finish the turn..if they're not just wait for a break in the traffic to complete your turn safely.

The point I'm making is to take your time.  It's doubtful you'll get a citation for holding up traffic if you're just trying to be safe.  If for some reason you're not comfortable with the turning scenario go straight ahead for a block or two until you can negotiate a right turn you can be comfortable with.

I'd rather go out of my way until I fully develop the skills needed to be able to cope with not only my,
shortcomings but those of the offensive driving public as well.

Good Luck


Offline Len Silva

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #13 on: May 13, 2007, 01:02:50 PM »
Watch your speed!  With air ride and the engine noise way behind you, it's very easy to be going faster than you intend.  My first bus didn't have a working speedometer and I found myself approaching Interstate off-ramps much faster than I thought.


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Offline Runcutter

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Re: Driving the bus
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2007, 02:36:52 PM »
OK, here's my edit (at bottom) with the new keyboard.  I'd litterally lost my "A" ...  spilled lemonade.

Jeremy, you might want to contact your local transit system, or some charter bus operators to see if any of their trainers are willing to take you out (in your bus) for the training.  You wouldn't go directly through the transit system, but a charter operator might be willing to run it through the company.  With a transit system, you're looking more for a name - a driver you can approach directly - possibly by placing a note on the bulletin board in the drivers' room. 

When I picked up my 4107, I asked the dealer to take me out and give me a checkride - even though I used to instruct on 4905's.  I hadn't driven one in almost 30 years.  In the interval, I've driven transits just a little - mostly as General Manager, showing a driver how to do something.  Even that was long ago.

My wife and I volunteer to judge the transit system roadeo here in Dallas each year.  This year, I asked one of the trainers (I've known him for years) - if he'd take me out in my coach for a refresher; and if he'd spend some time instructing my wife.  Why do I desire someone to check me out?  We don't know if we're doing things well, but the instructor does.   Does 1+1=11, or does 1+1=2 ----  the instructor knows.   

On-the-job DIY training may work when you're hanging drywall, you can always take it off and redo it.  It's seldom fatal  On the job training in driving a bus can be dangerous.  Remember the Greyhound destination sign "MIAMI", and read it backwards as if in a mirror .... I MAIM. 

EDIT....  The first time I moved a bus, when I was a 16 year old fueler/cleaner, I broke the window of the 4512 I was in, and the mirror of the next bus.  I was pulling out of a slot, and turned the steering wheel before the rear axle (pivot point) was clear.  If I'd had an instructor next to me, the shout of "not yet" would have saved me some embarassment, and the company money.  Regarding a subsequent post, we all may need professional help in many ways ....  learning to drive is just one of them.

« Last Edit: May 13, 2007, 04:31:15 PM by Runcutter »
Arthur Gaudet    Carrollton (Dallas area) Texas 
Former owner of a 1968 PD-4107

Working in the bus industry provides us a great opportunity - to be of service to others