Dou­ble-decker buses can be tricky, re­tired driver says

PressReader - Tke Channel - 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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