Oct 6, 2014

The Wheels On The Bus Go Round And Round.

Isn't it funny how we think we know about something and then it turns out we didn't know at all? That is how I feel about school bus drivers. I have always taken them for granted. Occasionally one of my kids would complain about their bus driver because they had assigned seats on the bus. Once or twice a Baird child left something on the bus. A Baird child has even been known to hear about the facts of life on the bus. Sometimes a substitute driver would miss our bus stop and I would have to call transportation. But on the whole school buses have fallen into the, "taken for granted" part of my life. I had no idea what went into driving a school bus....but now I do.

This, "getting my commercial drivers licence," thing started in earnest on September 3. This was the day before school started here in Oregon. There was an eight hour meeting at the school district office building for all the bus drivers for the school district. I had no idea what to expect from this meeting but I was expected to be there. By this point I had taken all five of the multiple choice tests I was required to take at the Department of Motor Vehicles, been fingerprinted, and had earned my commercial drivers licence permit. 

I had never been in a room filled with bus drivers before. I was very impressed at the togetherness of this group. I was surprised at how much you had to know and learn to be one of them. As they talked I realized I had never fathomed all the issues a bus driver faces everyday....

 If a parent is not there to meet their kindergartner's bus.
 If a child wants to go home with a friend on a bus and does not have a note.
 If someone is allergic to something someone else is eating on the bus.
 If someone wants to get off at a different stop.
 If a kid does not want to get off the bus
 Or if a kid does not want to get on the bus.
 Kids who do not want to stay in their seat.
 Kids who "need" their feet to be in the aisle.
 Dogs who feel the need to get on the bus and say good morning to everyone.
 Bees that fly in windows and sting kids.
 The keeping track of  mileage, figuring logistics, and keeping up with where kids get dropped and  picked up. 

After this meeting the first thing they had me do was just ride on a bus a few days to see what it was like. It was the first few days of school and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love morning. I love driving. I love routine. I love the hilarious things kids say. I met a kindergartner who told me she and her dad went hunting over the weekend and that they shot a bear and then they both ate the whole bear together:) I was stunned by how many kids did not know their phone numbers, addresses, last names, or where their house even was. When my Zach started school in Princeton, New Jersey the first day of kindergarten they sent him home on the wrong bus but he knew exactly where he lived and told the bus driver how to get there. I witnessed a few kids on these buses who could not do that.


After a few days of observing I started training. Training meant that every single day from  9:30 to 11:30 I was with my trainer Janet. All through September and even now. The first thing we do every day of training is go through the pre trip inspection. Did you know before the bus driver ever gets on the bus they have a 30 minute pre trip inspection they need to do? Yeah, I didn't know that either. It starts with you telling what you are looking for as you approach the bus and then you open the hood and explain all the parts under the hood and whether they are secure or not and how you would know if there is something wrong with them or not.Then you get on the bus and explain everything on the dash and on the side panel, all the gauges, indicator lights, fans etc. Then you do your air brake test. The air brake test has been the hardest part for me to remember. But after writing the steps over and over I finally have it.Then you check all the lights on and off the bus, emergency exits, and seats. It is a crazy amount of information and I had no idea my brain could do this.

After I finish the pre trip every day we drive. While driving I have learned about crossing train tracks which this little town is chock full of. I have learned how to drive a bus down a 6% grade. I have learned to back into the most interesting school bus turn around spots you have ever seen. We practice student stops. I learn how to not hit the curb when I am making a right hand turn and how to not hit the yellow line when making a left hand turn. I learn how to constantly be looking in mirrors while I am driving. It is becoming so bad that when I am driving my car I have to remind myself I do not need to stop a railroad crossings. How easily we become conditioned.

So tomorrow is my big day. When I show up at 9:30 I will not be trained I will meet the testing lady and I will be tested. First I have to do the pre trip and then I will have to pass the basic skills test which includes backing the bus three different ways. Then I will have a driving test. I am strangely not nervous. I feel like I know everything I need to know. The backing up does not thrill me but I have asked a ton of questions and my trainer indulged me when I begged to try all different kinds of ways to back up so that I could know for sure the best way :)

So the last question I have is what does one wear for their commercial drivers license test? And what do I deserve when this is over? :)

Oh and I know you are wondering and yes, I can easily reach the pedals and see over the steering wheel....but thanks for asking :)

1 comment:

Smilin' sunshine said...

WOW! I had no idea it was so complex!
Good luck tomorrow!