Friday, 8 June 2012

London bus driver information blog Part 2


This a continuation of my last post regarding the process to becoming a London bus driver, in my case it was with Arriva London.

My first blog can be viewed here ARRIVA and London buses exam and training Blog it is a full break down of everything that is involved with becoming a driver for a main operator in London.

So after passing all my exams and test's I was then given a garage that I would be working from, my first day was really just route learning and getting to understand the duty cards (bus times) and how the place worked.

Im now a fair few months into the job and can now see all the issues that a bus driver will face on a daily basis, and no the passengers really aren't the main issue, as a bus driver there is quiet a lot out there that can give you grief and make your life really hard.

VOSA do on the spot checks so you really have to make sure the bus is in tip top condition for the service as the buck stops with the driver, so if your unsure on something that may case any issue whilst out on the road report it!.

Next up is revenue or as most people will know them "ticket inspectors" now in my case I haven't had a issue with them but many drivers do, they have the power to book a driver I.E produce a report that say's he has let passengers on without a ticket and it goes on his/hers record, get a few of these and your in trouble!. Trust me in London there is always a percentage that will try and get on without a ticket, some get through some don't so its just luck of the draw really.

The DSA or "driving standards agency" they do checks on how the driver is performing, they will be just a normal passenger to the driver but will be accessing the level of service and then issue a report and submit it to the garage (good or bad)..

Again this can be a bit hit and miss as if they get on your bus first thing on a Wednesday morning when you have loads of time on the time card and are driving really slow then the report im sure will be a good one, but then theres times you have to drive a bit quicker and spend far less time at stops etc such as in rush hour so the report could be a bit different so again luck of the draw.

Mystery passenger... Same as mystery shoppers really, just a normal person getting on buses and making notes on the drivers performance, they will normally ask the driver a question when they get on such as does this bus go to such and such to see how he/she will interact with the passenger then they will do a driving assessment on comfort and speed.

And probably the last little issue will be PASSENGERS and I will be the first to say that 99.99999% give no problems but there are a few that will really push your buttons.

A few examples::: I like most bus drivers will  announce if the next bus stop is closed or if there's a problem up ahead and we have to divert for some reason in the hope that the passengers will be able to best make a decision on there journey, I always get at least a few people coming up to the cab shouting at me and asking why I didn't stop? Or why didn't I announce that the stop is closed!!!.

This is normally the case and situation just after about 30 bell rings to make a point of me not stopping.

NEXT:: And for me this is a big one as it could be the end of my job if caught is having a overloaded bus, now there is a yellow/red line just to the side of the drivers cab we ARE NOT ALLOWED TO HAVE PEOPLE STANDING IN THIS AREA!

No if's or But's about it...
Now we may be at a busy stop and taking people onboard and we know that there is to many people for the allowed bus limit, at the next stop we may let say 5 people off and "not" open the front doors..

This is because we cannot safely carry anymore passengers, this could happen for 2-3 stops in a row until the passenger number is of a legal limit for the bus type. And people waiting at the stop don't help by shouting, swearing or kicking the doors in the hope we will risk our jobs for them. Also in this situation is when people who are waiting at the stop shout out that there's an empty seat upstairs and to let them on even when there could be 20-30 people at the stop and let's be honest if that door opens its a mad rush to cram on and more often than not the person at the stop can't see that there is 4 or 5 people standing already on the stairs so there really isn't any room!.

The camera we have in the cab for the the top deck doesn't show everything either, so more often than not we can't even see in any detail how many seats are free and its really just a best guess.


If you get on without the correct money and you get change its from the drivers own pocket, no bus company in London as far as I know give there drivers a float. Bet you didn't know that..

NOT REOPENING THE DOORS AT A STOP::::: This again is a big NO NO as it can cost us our jobs, the report title if seen will be (failing to follow proper board and alighting procedures), once the stop is served and the doors close that's it esp if we are indicating to move out into traffic, it really is a dangerous thing to do as i've seen already in my short career two accidents resulting from this type of thing.

Also at a bus stop the bus DOES NOT have to be at the bus stop flag for us to board and alight passengers.

As long as we are in the yellow bus stop square that is counted as serving the stop. So yes two or even three buses can serve one stop at a time without the bus at the back having to wait for the other two to move before opening and closing the doors, this is apparent in very busy areas of London where its just not practical for every bus to have to come inline with the bus stop flag to board and alight passengers.

WHY ARE SOME DRIVERS IN A HURRY::: In short sometimes we have to be esp in the rush hour or at times when there are fewer buses on the route such as late evening, I have the same run times on a Monday night as I do on a Fri and Sat so you can see that on the Fri and Sat night run its going to be far busier so to keep to the timetable you have to work sometimes a lot quicker!!!!

My route takes me from north London to Tottenham and right past Liverpool st into the city, I may have about a 6 minute window to cover that distance in otherwise I will be running late, the journey time can be anything from 50mins to over an hour and a half so with such a small window to work with being quick is sometimes very necessary hence not being able to wait for every last person that is 100 yards back running for the bus we just do not have the time..

Black cabs::: some are really good some are really dangerous ive seen it all.. 

How bus companies make their money??::: This is another one that most people get wrong, bus companies DO NOT get any money from fares, so if I pick up 1000 passengers or 1 in a day the company I work for still gets the same money. Its calculated on the company running the route and the mileage each trip on that route. So in short TFL pay the operator to run the route and thats it the cash we get from oysters etc goes to TFL the operator doesn't get a cut.

So as a last bit I will say my own thoughts on the job:::: I really do get fed up when people say its a low skilled or easy job!!!!

When I can tell you it isn't, the level of driving skill you need is vast contrary to what most people think, if you are poor you wont be in the job very long as you will get booted by one of the agencies doing assessments or you will have an accident and that's you on the doll cue.

Sometimes your people skills are pushed way beyond your limit, just yesterday I was coming through Liverpool st where they had single file traffic due to major road works, TFL had put yellow covers and signs on the stop saying the bus stop was closed, yet there was still 50 people trying to flag down my bus and when I went past in a line of about 5 buses as instructed by TFL and the POLICE who where on sight.

I ended up getting stopped at a set of pedestrian lights about 30 feet up the road it still didn't stop people running up swearing at me, and one guy standing in front of the bus giving me the w@nker sign! Nice.

If I had served that stop I would have been in MAJOR hot water and prob got a caution on my record.

You hear a lot about what drivers are paid and most people think its an over paid job, well again after being in the job a bit I can say that its under paid!

500+ a week may sound like a lot of cash for driving around London but trust me with the daily issues that we face and responsibility of so many passengers it really isn't that much money for the job that we have to do, inc the long late shifts and some time's hours and hours driving without a break can be very stressful.

Its one of the reasons that company's have such a high turn over of drivers they either leave due to the working environment or get sacked for having a collision that in some cases isn't even the drivers fault, happens all the time...

Cyclist will get a bad rep with bus drivers mainly due to the outright lack of common sense they show when out on the road, such as being between the bus and the curb in the Blind spot and weaving in and out of slow moving traffic.

Now before I get branded as a cycle hater I will tell you that im in fact a cycle nut and commute everyday on a bike and worked in the city for years and commuted up to Liverpool st on a 20mile ride daily so my view isn't a biased one :-) I cycle about 6k a year...

Will I stay in the job? well for the moment I will as honestly there are still parts of it that I like and in the current climate there isn't much else out there but I can see that in a couple of years time im thinking that the daily grind of what you deal with could become very tedious but I will pass that bridge when I come to it.

UPDATE:::: 23/10/12

So the new red book is out for drivers, its a publication update regarding regulations and such that TFL produce to notify drivers of new changes in bus operations.. The BIG thing in this edition is that we no longer accept 10 or 20 pound notes for a fair!!! so if you get on with these notes chances are you will be refused a fair, there are a few ways around this but that is up to the driver at the time and not something I will be going into here.

NEXT:: And this for me is something that needs to be addressed is that ive seen a large increase in passengers running for the bus directly at it in the road whilst its serving a stop in the hope that the driver has no choice but to wait for them as his/her's path is blocked and cant pull away....

Believe me this is not a good idea, your running in a busy main road against traffic and into the path of a large lump of heavy metal, its only a matter of time before this leads to something very serious....

Update 18/12/12

I thought it would be a good idea to add some info for people wondering how we know if we are running late and what the in cab computer does (also known as the IBUS system)

This unit sits in the cab normally above the drivers head either in front or to the side, the top left corner where it shows the 4:00 will normally have a + or a - then a number.. This will tell you how early or late you are so if it shows - 2:00 then you know your 2 minutes early if its show say + 15:00 then your running 15 mins late.. The green button at the top is for contacting your garage controller, you would use this say if your running late or you have a problem with the bus or anything else that you think they may need to know..

The second button is for the internal inter comm to talk to the passengers, the Blue button is to talk to TFL and there call center is called center comm.. They over see bus workings for the whole of London, you would use the CODE BLUE button for a non emergency such as say you see a badly parked car near a bus stop or your path is blocked by badly placed road works etc etc... Then there is the button that you hope you never press and that is the RED button!!!! a CODE RED call is for serious incidents such as a accident or if your attacked by someone.. They will normally answer a CODE RED call within a few seconds and they will be able to see the exact location of your bus..

If you look at the screen you can see a options menu on the right hand side this gives out pre recorded messages to the passengers such as "This bus is going on diversion" or "The destination of this bus has changed"  there are a few other bits that the IBUS does but on the whole the bits outlined above are its bread and butter...

This is the ticket machine that sits in the cab also known as a Wayfarer the Oyster bit will be on the outside on the left hand side...

All buses have just last week been fitted with a new ticket machine they are the same model but have different software installed, this is good because once you have set this new one up at your first run you don't really need to touch it again, the old model needed info inputted at the end of each run..

When you get in the cab for the first time you will need to install your module see pic below

This unit goes into a slot on the bottom left hand side of the wayfarer machine and will activate the software so you can input you information.. At the start of your shift you will put your module into a machine in the garage and it will download your days duty, that will then allow you to start to input the days info into the machine that is in the bus..

First thing you need to input is your driver number, you will get this number the first day you start training and it will be used twice a day to sign on the wayfarer before your run (once for your first runs and second time after your lunch break)
Your number will be something like 1462952
You then input your running number this can be found on your duty card such as 101
You will then check the bus number is correct such as its showing 349 etc and you will select enter. The last bit is the trip number this again will be on your duty card and will be something like 43.

If you do not do these steps then your IBUS system will be blank and your oyster reader will not work. So when a driver does a change over and your wondering what he or she is doing for that couple of minutes its outlined above so be patient!.

RANT::: Cyclist please use a light that flash! It's nearly impossible to see a cyclist in the mirrors if its raining and they have no lights, a flashing light is the only way that a driver will see you. Lights are cheap and a life saver so get on it.

Errr apart from that for the moment that is all.
Stay safe...