Yes, I did indeed recently drive a school bus for the first time. My jaunt took place at BusWest, a Thomas Built Buses dealership in Carson, Calif., and I drove a Saf-T-Liner C2 unit.
Southern California School Bus Sales Manager Todd Franssen helped me in the entire process, from adjusting the seat and steering wheel height so that driving the bus would be comfortable to explaining to me various components of the bus and providing advice in operating it. I was grateful for this because having guidance made me focus and calmed my nerves.
Making the rounds
Driving a school bus was a goal that we at SBF set so that I could get a better sense of what school bus drivers face on a daily basis in terms of maneuvering such a large vehicle on the road.
My journey on the bus involved driving around BusWest’s parking lot. (There were no students on board.)
Some of you reading this may be saying to yourselves, “Driving around a parking lot with no students on the bus is not the same as driving on streets or the freeway with a busload of kids!” I agree with you 100%. The two situations are not comparable, and I have full respect for school bus drivers for taking on such a challenging job. But as I said, the goal was for me to get a taste of what it’s like to be behind the wheel of a bus.
Valuable learning experience
Having driven a Volkswagen Beetle since I got my permit and driver’s license, the prospect of driving such a large vehicle was daunting for me, and I was expecting the bus to be difficult to handle. Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I did my laps around the parking lot to find that it was very easy to drive. It drove similar to my car, and it made turns smoothly.
Certainly it would take extensive time behind the wheel to get used to the vehicle’s width and length in terms of judging space for and making lane changes and parking the bus, but in my short time behind the wheel, its ease of maneuverability was eye-opening.
This was also a growth experience for me on a personal level. Like many people, I get extremely anxious when faced with situations that push me outside of my comfort zone. Such was the case with driving a school bus.
As the date approached for me to go to BusWest, I fretted a lot; I was mostly concerned that I would hit something while driving the bus.
But as I drove, I gained confidence, and when I finished my trip, I felt good (and relieved!) because I’d accomplished something that I wasn’t sure I would be able to do.
How did you feel after your first experience driving a school bus? Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’d like to thank Todd Franssen and BusWest for being open to the idea of me driving a school bus and for welcoming me at the facility.
If you’re interested in seeing footage of my time behind the wheel at BusWest, click here.