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Advice for smooth operators

By Bob Bergey

I frequently receive compliments on my smooth driving. Smooth driving is no accident (no pun intended). It’s something I do very intentionally, very purposefully. And it’s not that difficult to do.

There’s probably no faster way to lose passengers’ confidence in your ability to drive your motorcoach than to start off with a jerky drive of rough starts, fast stops, running over curbs, near-misses with other vehicles, sudden corrections to stay in your lane or fast and frequent lane changes, “dancing” on the accelerator and/or brake pedal and taking corners too fast.

Most of these are easy to avoid with just a bit of concentration until they become second nature. Smooth starts are easy. Most new motorcoaches have computers that severely limit your ability to accelerate quickly in order to optimize fuel usage. On older coaches, just ease up on the accelerator; fuel savings aren’t the only benefit from an easy start.

Aim High

Smooth stopping is an area where nearly every driver can improve. The first factor in stopping smoothly is also the number one factor in driving safely, something the Smith System for Safe Driving calls “Aim high.” Aiming high basically means looking down the road, at least 15 seconds or more ahead of you. That gives you lots of time to see things developing that might require an adjustment in your driving, whether it’s a traffic light, heavy traffic, a stop sign, a turn, a lane change, or something else. You can slow down gradually, avoiding a hard stop.

As you come to a stop, feather the final edge of the stop. Ease up on the brake so the nose of your coach gently eases up at the very end rather than a hard end to the stop and the front of the coach bounces up. When it’s done perfectly, a passenger with his eyes closed cannot tell when the coach stopped moving. That is a smooth stop, and it’s possible with most coaches most of the time. It just takes a little practice and being very conscious of your braking until it becomes the way you always stop.

Dancing

Some drivers have a bad habit of “dancing” on the accelerator; short, little bursts of acceleration punctuated by an occasional tap on the brake pedal. That makes for a very uncomfortable ride. Be conscious of your foot movements and make the drive as smooth as you possibly can. Give yourself more space behind the vehicle in front of you so you can drive more smoothly.

Slow down in turns and tight spots. You don’t want passengers sliding out of their seats, or reaching for something to hold onto as you take a corner. Smooth driving keeps passengers very comfortably in their seats, enjoying the ride, and making your driving “invisible.” If your coach is equipped with a DriveCam or similar device, setting it off with abrupt turns or stops is a sure indication that your driving could use some improvement. Smooth drivers rarely trigger those event cameras.

Smooth driving makes for safer driving, which makes for happy passengers. And happy passengers make drivers happy, as well as the companies they drive for. Smooth driving is a win/win all the way around. Work on it a bit more consciously this week.

Bob Bergey is a motorcoach driver based in Franconia, PA.

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Posted by on Aug 25 2010. Filed under The Driver's Seat. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “Advice for smooth operators”

  1. This is a similar technique to what I taught pilots during my military career. I told them to taxi on the ground and fly in the air as though the Admiral was on board for every flights. Perhaps the CEO for each of your trips

    An added tip for stopping. As you come to a halt, let your eyes come closer and closer to the bus (plane). Forward motion is easier to see, and it is easier to simply cease to move instead of stopping by, as Bob says, easing up on the brake pedal slightly. Practice this with your automobile too.

  2. Jimbo

    Years ago an effective training tool for drivers was an empty milk bottle. Stand it on the floor and it should never tip over. (or have a Dad and an uncle like mine teach you how to drive !)

  3. Danno Cardinal

    I’m a new bus driver, coming from a nearly 8 year stint as a truck driver. Your advice is dead-on and it helped me start off driving motor coaches and other buses on a much more confident tone.

    Before doing the transition to driving buses, I was practicing my braking techniques, intersection approachments and such. This advice which I took seriously, worked and some people think I’m a veteran bus driver.

    Thanks and your articles are helping me shape up my career change.

  4. Dean Partridge

    I instruct new drivers to pay attention to the yellow speed limit signs posted at off ramps and other curves. Utilize these signs as a guide and take the curve five to seven mph slower than posted to give your passengers a smooth ride with minimal centripetal force. Always try to adjust your speed before and after curves and turns, avoid braking and accelerating in curves and turns.

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