Driving a bus never looked easy. Living in California and being stuck in my car as much as I am, I’ve always had tremendous respect for the men and women who operate buses on a daily basis. So, when the call came that I would get my shot to drive in Sunday’s APTA Bus Roadeo
, I was both excited and nervous.
Spending the day at the Roadeo didn’t help prepare me. The skills that the many participants exhibited were impressive and gave me the foolish belief that maybe I could do it. I would eventually be proven way wrong.
Before I got my turn to drive, I asked Motor Coach Industries’ Executive VP, Sales and Marketing, Patrick Scully, who has CDL, for some advice.
“Just remember, safety first,” he said. “Adjust your mirrors. Understand where your rear wheels are in relation to where you are in a driver position. It’s obviously a lot different than a car, it’s 40 feet long, so you have to get used to the length.”
With that advice, I jumped aboard, with Richard Daley Jr., a long-time employee for Boston’s Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority. He explained the course to me. Advised me to slow down and use my mirrors on each side. We tested the brakes so I could see how they felt. And, off we went.
I wasn’t doing too poorly at first, mostly because I was driving straight. As soon as I had to turn, though, the cones started piling up. By the time I got to the backing in portion of the course, several of the judges had to step in and pull the cones out from the tires.
The hardest part of driving the bus was definitely the brakes. Not their sensitivity, but the distance from the gas pedal to the brake pedal. I kept thinking I was going to miss them.
When we got to the end of the course, Daley told me to punch it through a row of barrels on each side until I hit 20 miles per hour, then brake before I hit the cone. There was a wall on the other side of the cone. I was worried that I wouldn’t find the brake on time and end up hitting the wall. I got it to 15 miles per hour, while knocking down every barrel that was on my right side, but stopped on time. And, just like that, it was all over.
I waited patiently to find out my score, but nobody ever came out to tell me. I’m going to assume it was a zero, but I may definitely make the record books for the highest number of obstacles taken out.
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