AS I took hold of the steering wheel of a Stagecoach training vehicle I had the sudden impulse to shout: “Move down the bus!”
Memories of hearing that shouted on school bus journeys came flooding back as I began to inch forward.
Stagecoach is recruiting new drivers so I went along to have a lesson with the company’s Worksop instructor Mike Reid.
We met up at the Chesterfield depot which has a private road.
Mike, 64, has been instructing for 12 years and has trained nearly all of Worksop’s bus drivers.
He suggested I start by doing a figure of eight round some columns.
He must have seen my white-knuckled grip because he added: “Just trust me and steer when I tell you to.”
I could hardly believe that I was in control of this monster - 39ft long, eight foot three inches wide and 11ft high.
It was surprisingly light - thanks to power steering - although my arms did feel to be at full stretch as I turned the wheel.
There are no dual controls, but Mike did have a handbrake at his side which he could pull on in an emergency.
After managing the figure of eight we headed out on to the perimeter road.
This seemed suddenly narrow from my elevated vantage point, and I thought I wouldn’t get past a parked van. But as Mike said confidently: “You could get a bus through there!”
He warned me to beware of tail swing and advised me to keep a close eye on my mirrors to make sure I didn’t knock the back of the bus into the kerb.
Then he got me to stop and have a go at swishing open the door, pretending I had passengers to let on.
My other real passenger was Stagecoach’s East Midlands training manager Wayne Lively who said it costs £3,500 to train a driver.
He said: “I think attitude and being aware of customer care is as important as driving skills, because we can improve driving but attitude is more difficult.”
Stagecoach requires new recuits to have held a driving licence for at least two years before they begin training for their PCV (Passenger Carrying Vehicle) licence.
They also have to be at least 21 years old.
Training takes about eight weeks - three weeks to get the licence - and emulates the shift patterns which drivers will be expected to work when they are taken on.
Stagecoach Worksop operations manager Dave Stevenson said: “Bus driving isn’t a nine to five job Monday to Friday, drivers all go on to a shift rota and have to work weekends and bank holidays as well.”
Once they have got their PCV licence, drivers are taken out with a mentor while they familiarise themselves with routes and ticket types.
Pay starts at £6.02 an hour for a trainee, rising to £7.70 once qualified and then a year later rises to £8.70.
Stagecoach has drivers in Worksop who have been with the company for 30 or even 40 years.
There are eight different types of buses and Dave said punctuality and reliability, along with customer safety and comfort, were paramount.
Coping with traffic and the general public? I’ll be letting bus drivers pull out every time from now on.
*For more information about becoming a driver call 473421.