Bus drivers drive regular routes within one town or city, or between cities. They stop at bus stops and bus stations to pick up and drop off passengers. Coach drivers may drive regular routes, or they may drive different routes every time, depending on the job they are given.
Some drivers take their coach overseas, crossing the channel by ferry or rail, driving in other countries with different traffic laws and with road signs in other languages. Other bus and coach drivers operate community transport; usually driving minibuses taking groups of schoolchildren, hospital patients, elderly or handicapped people to their destination.
At the start of their shift, they check that the bus or coach is in good working order, ticking off each point on a checklist. On route, they make sure they arrive at each stop on time. They answer enquiries from passengers and most drivers on regular routes take money and issue tickets. They operate doors and may operate special lifts for wheelchair users if their bus is fitted with them.
Coach drivers might: check that all passengers have returned after a break; deal with emergencies such as illness; arrange visits and give passengers tourist information.
Drivers are legally permitted to work up to nine hours on a shift, which can be extended to ten hours twice a week. Many bus and coach drivers work shifts in the evenings and at weekends. Local bus routes begin at about 6.00am and finish at about midnight.
Coach drivers taking tours can be away from home for one or more weeks at a time. Work for holiday and excursion coach drivers may be seasonal.
Bus and coach drivers spend most of the day sitting at the wheel of their vehicle. Coach drivers get out of the cab to load and unload luggage, or to assist disabled or elderly passengers. Bus drivers may only get out at tea and meal breaks. It may get hot in summer, unless bus or coach is air-conditioned.
To be a bus driver, you should:
There are over 130,000 drivers working in over 6,000 bus and coach companies, some very large and some with just a few buses.
Companies vary, from those running mainly local bus services to those running long distance express coaches or both. Some drivers work for tour companies, driving groups on holidays lasting just a day or several weeks, in the UK or overseas.
Career development could be to a service controller or inspector, a manager or a driving instructor. Some people become self-employed. In this case they will need to obtain an operator’s Certificate of Professional Competence (Passenger Transport).
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