Double-decker buses can be tricky, retired driver says
As a retired transit operator in Victoria, B.C., my heart and condolences go out to the family and friends who lost a loved one in the horrific OC Transpo bus crash last Friday. Also to the injured who witnessed the chaos and trauma that transpired on that bus; I hope for a speedy recovery for all.I drove all models of transit vehicles in my 20-year tenure in Victoria, as well as highway coaches over the years previously, and briefly after retirement. My favourite bus to drive was the double-decker buses — that are exactly like the OC Transpo type.Two things stood out to me as an operator of double-deckers: the extra height to be mindful of, of course; and, obviously, the extra weight. We had to trim many low-hanging trees and even raise a bridge on one route to eliminate any contact when the deckers first arrived.The weight was another matter: A 90-plus passenger load required a conscious mindset regarding the longer distance needed to stop or steer out of a potential incident. Many times, I carried a full load from the British Columbia ferry dock to downtown Victoria; I altered my speed down and lengthened my stopping distance, as my defensive-driving skills were at their highest. Driving a double-decker was a different “drive” from operating a conventional bus, in many ways.The double-deckers were quieter, solid, smooth and as easy to handle as a conventional-sized bus, but required more defensive-driving awareness due to the size and weight.A transit operator’s job may look easy because we are professional drivers of big equipment manoeuvring through traffic and constantly in and out of bus stops, but it is not. There are constant distractions, both inside and outside a bus, that can disrupt one’s concentration. The key is to stay focused 100 per cent of the time. It can take a newer driver up to a year or even more to get really comfortable in the front seat.One suggestion would be to train a newer operator on one model of bus only at the beginning, such as a regular, conventional bus, which can be done during the excellent initial training period companies provide. When that is deemed complete and the operator has had sufficient time on the road in traffic, carrying passengers, move the driver training up to the articulated buses, and then the double-deckers. This is not an easy thing to do from a company’s perspective, I’m sure, as the logistics would be difficult to organize, but trying to learn the nuances of all the different styles, shapes and sizes of buses during initial training is a lot to digest.Good luck in determining the cause of this crash — and my heart goes out to the operator of this bus too, as she also must be extremely traumatized.Tim Blanchard is a retired transit operator who was employed by B.C. Transit in Victoria, B.C.
It may take a newer bus driver up to a year or even more to get comfortable in the front seat, says Tim Blanchard.
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