I’ve been driving motorcoaches for almost eight years. But I still remember when I was the “new guy.” Here are a few tips that might help all you new bus and motorcoach drivers as you ease into your wonderful new career — some that were shared with me and some I wish had been shared with me.
1. Do your homework
Know where you are going. It is SO much easier today than it was even eight years ago when I started, thanks to some of the wonderful technology available to drivers today. Google Maps – maps.google.com – can be a driver’s best friend. Taking time to learn all its features will be worth your while. More on that in a future post. Smart phones, such as the Apple iPhone with its maps and GPS features can be a great aid when you’re on the job. The new Apple iPad is the most fantastic tool ever for a charter motorcoach driver. I’ll be writing more about that later, as well. A GPS receiver with traffic reports is an extremely helpful tool once you are behind the wheel. In addition to knowing where you’re going, learn something about your destination and as much as you can about the passengers. Having a general feel for the trip can help you interpret conversations and requests from the group leader or lead driver.
2. Follow at a safe distance
Chances are good that your first few trips will be on multiple-coach moves where you’ll be driving the second coach or further back in the pack. But don’t worry; a responsible lead driver is not going to let you get lost. New drivers tailgate far more commonly than experienced drivers, usually out of fear of getting lost or separated from the lead driver by a traffic light or other traffic. But since you’ve done your homework, you know where you’re going, right? So operate with the “four second rule” — at least four seconds of space between you and the coach (or other vehicle) in front of you.
3. Socialize with other drivers during rest breaks
I probably learned more about driving from other drivers engaging in casual conversation during rest breaks or while waiting for passengers than anything else. You have two ears and one mouth, and they should probably be used in that proportion. Do a lot of listening. But don’t be afraid to ask questions. This is not the time to be a “know-it-all.”
4. Don’t pretend to know more than you do
This applies both when working with other drivers and in conversation with your passengers. If the lead driver or dispatcher asks, for instance, if you’re familiar with a certain area, be totally honest. It’s far better to admit you’re not familiar than to end up getting lost or be unclear with the instructions. With your passengers, don’t pretend to know more than you do, or to have been driving longer than you have. Chances are they’ll discover the truth pretty quickly. I wouldn’t suggest volunteering that this is your first or second trip; however, if they ask, be honest and chances are they’ll be on your side.
5. Sleep, but not behind the wheel.
Your first few trips will likely be shorter ones. But even on short trips, there is no substitute for having had a good night’s sleep and coming to work well rested and ready to go. It’s tough to concentrate on the road when you’re tired, and this is not a good career for tired drivers. Also it’s usually a good idea to take a nap mid-trip once you’ve dropped your passengers at their destination and you’ve got some time to wait. Even a 10 or 15 minute nap can go a long way to refresh you for the return trip.
I’ll be expanding on some of these points (and lots more) in coming posts, so I hope you’ll become a regular reader. Stop by my website for even more for motorcoach drivers: http://eightwheels.com or Travels on Twitter: @eightwheels; a photo gallery is also available at: www.BobBergey.com
Bob Bergey is a motorcoach driver based in Franconia, PA.