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Bus Discussion => Bus Topics ( click here for quick start! ) => Topic started by: busnut_texas on May 11, 2007, 07:28:57 PM

Title: Driving the bus
Post by: busnut_texas on May 11, 2007, 07:28:57 PM

I have what may be a stupid question. Given that I have never driven a bus before, should I invest in lessons of some kind or is it standard to be educated 'on-site' when I purchase a bus? I have read some posts that seem to imply the latter, but I wanted to ask.


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Dreamscape on May 11, 2007, 07:35:19 PM
Just take it slow and easy the first time. You might want to find a big parking lot to practice things like shifting and braking so you can get a feel of what is expected. Each rig is a little differant, so don't be afraid to ask questions.
If you can find someone that owns a bus that would be able to help you out that would be great. Otherwise Just think of yourself driving some else's car, get familiar with the way it handles.

I remember when I was just out of high school, I got a job driving a school bus for a private school, I thought it was huge and boy was I driving with white knuckles for a long time. When I picked up my Eagle memories came back and I thought, this is really cool. I get to feel good about one thing, IT'S ALL MINE! What a feeling!

Happy Trails,



Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: HighTechRedneck on May 11, 2007, 07:42:18 PM
If you have ever driven a Ryder truck with a 28' box, then it isn't that different except for getting used to air brakes and how to manuever while sitting forward of the steering axle.  To me that latter one was the biggest learning curve.  But I quickly got accustomed to it.  Just my experience and opinion, your mileage may vary.  

However you choose to do it, be extra careful until you are used to it.  (actually, always be extra careful driving a big heavy bus.)

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: belfert on May 11, 2007, 07:49:33 PM
Some technical/vocational schools offer an RV driving course.  I assume you must bring your own RV unlike the truck driving courses.

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: wvanative on May 11, 2007, 07:53:31 PM

I have seen adds for training to get you acquainted with driving a bus, but it wasn't cheap. I'm thinking $400 to $800 for a short course of a day or so. But most guys just ask a lot of questions when they pick it up and learn on the way home. Also you can do a search here on site for driving and learn a lot as a lot of the guys here drive buses and trucks for a living.


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: jjrbus on May 11, 2007, 07:56:27 PM
If your bus has air brakes, go to the DMV and get a copy of the CDL manual and learn about air brakes. You do not need a CDL but need to know about air brakes. Do a web search and read up on air brakes. What you do not know can kill you.
 Here is a link to start,

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Connel on May 11, 2007, 08:14:08 PM
Anyone living around the Austin area want to step up and volunteer to help Jeremy learn to drive his new toy?

Jeremy, I would be glad to help but am 6+ hours north of you .  Like was stated earlier go to a large parking lot at a local mall and practice parking, backing, turning using the white lines for guides.  When I sold my first bus I took the purchaser to a huge parking lot and let him practice, practice, practice.

Good Luck!

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: superpickle on May 11, 2007, 08:18:17 PM
You will cut the Curb almost every time for the first few and you might take out a few small signs or pedestrians toes ::)

Stay off narrow streets.
Do NOT put it on Cruise and go in the back to make a Sandwich !!!!! :o :o :o

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: bobsw on May 11, 2007, 08:40:24 PM
just rember to breathe  When I picked up my last bus I had to keep telling myself to relax and breathe. After about 25 to 30 miles all was good.  Have fun.

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Hartley on May 11, 2007, 09:08:03 PM
Buses handle like really big long station wagons.

I would rather drive a bus than any of those stretch limo's any day.

Wide turns and all.

Do not even think that you can do a U-Turn on a 4-lane .... Most won't make it without 3 to 6 point turns.

Learn your mirrors and how to use them. 90% of driving is looking in the mirrors.

A Bus will literally go where you point it... Be careful of the corners....


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Melbo on May 11, 2007, 09:13:35 PM
The big thing that I took a while to learn is that the forward turn and backward turn are of different radius's as odd as that may seem and it will make a HUGE difference if you maneuver into a tight spot and want to get out. Just my experience Hope This Helps Your Mileage May Vary.


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: NJT 5573 on May 11, 2007, 10:46:43 PM
Jeremy, after you study up on air brakes and know how to adjust them if you have manual slacks you can start working on the driving. Sit in the seat with the bus positioned in a parking lot and spend some serious time dialing in the mirrors. When driving I break a few of the rules about turning. I always take more room than I really need. Sometimes I will block several lanes until I get what I feel comfortable with, most people will give me a break when they see what I'm trying to do. A bus will not stop on a dime and give you back a nickel, so you need to put extra thought into following distances and reading traffic as you drive. Anytime I don't feel comfortable I slow down. If I'm tired I slow down. I think a beginner should stay in the slow lane as much as possible and let traffic overtake you so you get a feel of your rig. Todays aerodynamics on semis will pull and push your bus around on the road. My Eagle will pull a loaded semi a foot or more to my lane as I start to come along side them. I've found if I swerve a couple feet into their lane from about 100 feet back it straightens the air flow enough to keep them in their lane as I pass. (Dale Earnhart taught me how to see air, (Daytona)! I never change lanes without looking twice, thats the rule. If you don't have a Jake or Retarder you never go down a hill any faster then you went up it. Try to avoid letting air get between the brake shoes and the drums in the middle of a hill, steady light brake pressure all the way to the bottom if you can. If you let air (oxygen) get between the shoes and drums you have the main ingredients for a brake fire. Get a CDL manual and learn to name all the parts on a walk around inspection of your bus and do the inspection every time you stop. As a driver you will be subjected to many "In the Bus Emergencies", (wife, kids, lots of stuff hitting the floor, etc). As a driver you must ignore all of these disturbances and totally focus on your job, driving safely. If you stop always stop on the right hand side of the road. My safety vest rides on the front dash, I don't get out on the highway without it on. Many bus engines run on the hot side in the hills, a good driver always drops a gear and cools, (breathes) the engine just before you reach the top of the hill. That keeps it from cooling to fast on the down hill side and cracking the heads. I've seen a lot of trucks pull to the shoulder of the road after it has rained and sink to the axels in the mud so it takes a lot of thought to get me to take any piece of heavy equiptment off the black top. Got some rules for kids and adult passengers too, no one gets out when the bus stops on the highway or in rest areas without permission, the bus is not always stopped in a safe zone and I have the responsibility to make sure no one steps out into 70 MPH traffic when they are half asleep. If there is any chance of rain I use RAIN X on the windshield, I love that stuff.

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: NCbob on May 13, 2007, 12:53:30 PM
Jeremy, being a new driver myself I can't add much to the good bit of advice you've already received except to advise you on right hand turns based on some of my experience.

It will invariably happen to you...it's happened to most of us...

Picture yourself and your bus approaching an intersection where your desire is to turn right...let's assume it's a busy intersection with a traffic light.  There is no dedicated right turn lane and the perpendicular street is also two lane and reasonably busy.

You'd like to think that you'd want to be toward the left side of your lane and in order to clear your rears you'll need to hold your turn a bit long and then increase your turn rate sharply to clear the rears.  That's all fine except that the young driver in the left lane of the intersecting street has a cell phone in their ear and isn't the slightest bit concerned in your situation. As you ease around the corner the light changes and the driver under your nose bolts for the green and no one in the oncoming lane has any sympathy for you.  If your rears are clear..finish the turn..if they're not just wait for a break in the traffic to complete your turn safely.

The point I'm making is to take your time.  It's doubtful you'll get a citation for holding up traffic if you're just trying to be safe.  If for some reason you're not comfortable with the turning scenario go straight ahead for a block or two until you can negotiate a right turn you can be comfortable with.

I'd rather go out of my way until I fully develop the skills needed to be able to cope with not only my,
shortcomings but those of the offensive driving public as well.

Good Luck


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Len Silva on May 13, 2007, 01:02:50 PM
Watch your speed!  With air ride and the engine noise way behind you, it's very easy to be going faster than you intend.  My first bus didn't have a working speedometer and I found myself approaching Interstate off-ramps much faster than I thought.


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Runcutter on May 13, 2007, 02:36:52 PM
OK, here's my edit (at bottom) with the new keyboard.  I'd litterally lost my "A" ...  spilled lemonade.

Jeremy, you might want to contact your local transit system, or some charter bus operators to see if any of their trainers are willing to take you out (in your bus) for the training.  You wouldn't go directly through the transit system, but a charter operator might be willing to run it through the company.  With a transit system, you're looking more for a name - a driver you can approach directly - possibly by placing a note on the bulletin board in the drivers' room. 

When I picked up my 4107, I asked the dealer to take me out and give me a checkride - even though I used to instruct on 4905's.  I hadn't driven one in almost 30 years.  In the interval, I've driven transits just a little - mostly as General Manager, showing a driver how to do something.  Even that was long ago.

My wife and I volunteer to judge the transit system roadeo here in Dallas each year.  This year, I asked one of the trainers (I've known him for years) - if he'd take me out in my coach for a refresher; and if he'd spend some time instructing my wife.  Why do I desire someone to check me out?  We don't know if we're doing things well, but the instructor does.   Does 1+1=11, or does 1+1=2 ----  the instructor knows.   

On-the-job DIY training may work when you're hanging drywall, you can always take it off and redo it.  It's seldom fatal  On the job training in driving a bus can be dangerous.  Remember the Greyhound destination sign "MIAMI", and read it backwards as if in a mirror .... I MAIM. 

EDIT....  The first time I moved a bus, when I was a 16 year old fueler/cleaner, I broke the window of the 4512 I was in, and the mirror of the next bus.  I was pulling out of a slot, and turned the steering wheel before the rear axle (pivot point) was clear.  If I'd had an instructor next to me, the shout of "not yet" would have saved me some embarassment, and the company money.  Regarding a subsequent post, we all may need professional help in many ways ....  learning to drive is just one of them.


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: JackConrad on May 13, 2007, 02:51:07 PM
   When you need more than your lanes (such as when making a right hand turn), try to make eye contact with the drivers affected by your wide turn. I have found they are more receptive to moving a little to give you room. This also helps when trying to pull out onto a busy street, if you make eye contact with an approaching driver, they seem more willing to let you in.  This is a tip I learned from my stepfather who drove semis back when there were no CB radios, AC, or any of the other conveniences that we take for granted.  Jack

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: BusCrazyinFL on May 13, 2007, 03:27:54 PM
Jeremy if you can afford it get professional help. I drove tractor trailers pulling doubles for years and to me driving a bus is very similar, it is heavy equipment.
One mistake out on the road, and it is all over! Some people on this board may not agree, but for those of us who have driven big rigs...we understand.  I quit driving big rigs in 2003, and then last August I bought my bus, and even I was nervous driving it home. So please, get some professional help. You need experience out on the road, not just in a parking lot.

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Busted Knuckle on May 13, 2007, 03:35:14 PM
Each and every one of the above poster's has given excellant advise! I can not add anything of wisdom to it as I think they've covered it all! I especially want to repeat NCBob's mention that if a turn looks too tight (or you are uncomfortable with it for any reason!) pass it by and go a few blocks out of the way and circle back to where you wanted to be by a different route! Or go past it find a suitable place to turn around and come back at it from the either direction and make a left turn (they are alomost never as tight as a right turn!)
I've been driving for a living for over 25 yrs (from tow trks, dump trks, semi trks, and now buses & still tow trks) and I still pass up and come back to a suitable turn regularly!
And as Dreamscape & the others point out keep safety first!
OH yeah definetly keep in mind about the U-turn! I just tried it yesterday in my 45' Setra ( I was empty) which has a very tight turning radious, and still had to back up and straighten out once! And when I finished a cop who showed up outta now where pulled up next to me an said "I don't believe you just did that! ! ! By the way nice job!" Opps, ! I know sometimes I shouldn't tell on myself for pulling dumb stunts, but if it helps just 1 of ya'll from making a mistake by learning from mine it's worth it!  FWIW BK  ;D

PS. Ahem, this was posted as I was typing mine! All I can say is AMEN!
Jeremy if you can afford it get professional help. I drove tractor trailers pulling doubles for years and to me driving a bus is very similar, it is heavy equipment.
One mistake out on the road, and it is all over! Some people on this board may not agree, but for those of us who have driven big rigs...we understand.  I quit driving big rigs in 2003, and then last August I bought my bus, and even I was nervous driving it home. So please, get some professional help. You need experience out on the road, not just in a parking lot.

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: RJ on May 13, 2007, 10:53:19 PM
Jeremy -

As a retired bus driver trainer, I'd like to share some thoughts with you:

~~ You must keep in mind that when driving a bus, you're controlling where the rear axle goes.  That's the pivot point, and whatever you do with the front end determines where the back end is going to end up.

~~ Always remember you're sitting three feet in front of the steering axle.

~~ When making a RH turn, DO NOT swing the front of the bus to the left first, before turning right.  Excellent way to cause a collision.

~~ When making a RH turn, set your coach up parallel to the curb 18 - 36" away.  Any closer and you'll jump the curb.  Any further out, and somebody will try to sneak by you (commonly called "right hand squeeze").

~~ When making a RH turn, after setting your coach up as stated above, pull straight into the intersection until your front axle passes the curbline of the street you're turning onto.  Only then do you start the actual turning process.

~~ At this point, you must watch BOTH the RH mirror and the traffic on the street you're turning onto.  You watch the RH mirror to see where the rear axle is, and you watch the traffic to see if you'll clear.

~~ If, at any point thru the turn, you see that you're not going to make it - STOP!  Striking a fixed object is always the fault of the moving vehicle.  If you stop because you cannot make the turn, and somebody runs into you, you've got the argument on your side that you stopped because it wasn't safe to continue.  Let the four-wheelers figure out how to get around you, then continue.

~~ When behind the wheel, DON'T look just at the car in front of you.  This is a very, very common habit that's hard to break with new bus drivers.  Get your eyes up - watch 10 - 15 seconds down the road ahead of you.  Watching that far ahead will increase your reaction time, and your peripheral vision will help with the stuff close by.

~~ Learn to use your mirrors correctly.  They should be adjusted so that as you look into them, you should only see about 1/2" of the side of your bus on the edge of the glass - the rest should be the roadway behind you.  I've seen drivers who have set their mirrors such that over half the glass was viewing the side of their coach, creating HUGE blind spots.  Set them right.

~~ If you have a transit agency in town, take a ride.  Sit in the back, watch how the bus pivots around the rear axle.  Find a spot where several buses come thru on a regular basis, and watch them make RH turns.  Seeing is believing.

Others have  offered good advice, too.  Gather it all together and go for a drive!

FWIW & HTH. . .


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: JerryH on May 14, 2007, 03:47:35 AM

All the information provided is certainly good.  Like others, I'll add my $0.02.

>> If you can find a CDL manual, better yet ... school bus drivers manual ... take the time to read it.  The air-brakes portion, pre-trip, etc. are worth the read.
>> Like others have said, if you are concerned about a turn or direction you might be taking ... pass it by and try another route. 
>> Don't fixate on the vehicle in front of you ... keep eyes moving around, checking mirrors, other lanes, adjoining roads, etc. 
>> Don't follow too closely -- no closer than 4 seconds from car in front of you.  Time distance between you and car in front of you by picking point and counting, 1/1000, 2/1000, 3/1000, 4/1000.  You should have not passed reference point before that last count.
>> Take your time.
>> Don't pump your brakes like you would possibly do in a car, as you could bleed off air unnecessarily.

Good luck,
Jerry H.

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: larryc on May 14, 2007, 04:12:10 AM
One of the things I remember hearing when I had my 4106 about safe driving was watching for "stale" green lights.
In other words, in city traffic, if you did not see the next traffic light turn green, it is "stale" and you don't know when its time might be to change. Always treat a "stale" green light as one that might change before you think it will and catch you unawares.


Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: brojcol on May 14, 2007, 04:52:16 PM
One of the things I remember hearing when I had my 4106 about safe driving was watching for "stale" green lights.

Hey Larry, I learned that one the hard way.  Good thing the other driver actually saw ME coming.  Taught me a valuable lesson, though.

I would just like to add, HUG THAT CENTER LINE!  If you ever get off the pavement, you may not get back on again.

Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: Dallas on May 14, 2007, 06:50:44 PM
One thing I would like to add here....
Learn to drive with your mirrors.

I use to be a driver/trainer for a trucking company and I constantly had to remind new drivers to watch their mirrors and center the vehicle withthem.
The tendency for a new driver is to hug either the center line, and that means having the mirror hanging over it, or hug the shoulder..... even when there isn't one. That causes lots of damage to the sides and roadside signage.

I've noticed this tendency among RV drivers also.

when you are learning how your vehicle operates, you have to remember, you aren't in a 5 foot wide car anymore. The bus is 8 or 8 1/2 feet wide and you must learn to treat it as such. If you try to hug one side or the other you'll end up doing a lot of damage to yourself, your equipment, others, or state property.

Learn to center that sucker and KEEP IT BETWEEN THE LINES!



Title: Re: Driving the bus
Post by: justin25taylor on May 26, 2007, 04:38:39 PM
I sent you a PM with my cell number. I live in Taylor and have driven entertainer coaches for years. Call me and I will donate the required time to get you going safely in the right direction. BTW everyone is giving you great advise