Commentary: Car Enthusiasm from a Bus Driver's Point of View

Where bus driving happens - All Photos by Tyler Lipa
Where bus driving happens – All Photos by Tyler Lipa

What if I told you that bus drivers had a secret to tell all the car enthusiasts out there?

I should know, because when I'm not writing about automotive subjects for Victory & Reseda, I work as a city bus driver for the Indiana University Campus Bus service in Bloomington, IN. For those of you who are curious, my bus is a 35-foot 2015 Gillig Low Floor powered by an 8.9 liter Cummins ISL in-line six-cylinder diesel engine. Our fleet also features 40-foot 1999 and 2005 Gillig Phantoms.

We run 18 hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. It's a stressful job.

For 40 hours a week, I am in a constant battle between traffic and pedestrians. I have a front row seat to all the mishaps and mayhem that is created when normal people get behind the wheel and take to the roads. Driving is a chore for most of these people, and it shows. I work very hard to predict and react accordingly to the chaotic and seemingly random acts of driver indiscretion that can make my days all too stressful.

Buses cause quite a bit of irrational driving behaviors. The most terrifying is the desire to get ahead of a bus at a stop light. A driver that is in my rear blind spot decides that they want to beat me to the light. They use their greater acceleration to pass me, but in the time it takes to traverse the length of my bus they are too close to the intersection to safely change lanes in front of my 40 thousand pound bus. While I see them coming up the side of my bus, I already have my foot on my brake pedal and slowing down. I find it hard to blame these drivers because they don't have an understanding of bus stopping distance. Yet, being behind the wheel for eight to ten hours-a-day can erode anyone's patience.

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Fortunately for me and many professional drivers out there, you and many like you are out there on the roads making our lives easier. You are group of certifiable car maniacs who take driving seriously. Unlike most drivers you know the rules of the road and it shows. You command your vehicle with precision and a keen eye for detail. I know that bus drivers aren't the type of people you would usually associate with, but we appreciate your professionalism on the road.

As a bus driver I have great respect for car enthusiasts. I love when I see a clean fifth generation Honda Civic or the smiling face of a first generation Mazda Miata approaching me at a four-way stop, because I know they already see me and are focusing on who will reach the intersection first. If they stop first, or they are the one approaching the intersection from my right, I know they will make a quick stop and move on their way. For just a few moments, the rules of the road are seen in action, and my blood pressure can normalize for a few moments.

I didn't write this piece to gain favor though. I wrote it because I, as a bus driver, want to bridge the gap between professional drivers and amateur drivers who have elevated their technique to a professional level. Drivers like us save time, increase safety and take the guesswork out of daily commutes.

To all those about to drive well. I salute you.

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