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Old 04-06-2005, 01:53 PM   #1
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How hard is a bus to drive?

My lovely 110lb wife wants to know how difficult it is to drive a bus. Neither of us has ever driven a school bus. My assurances that she could handle driving a bus are not very meaningful, so we are seeking expert advice. We do not know any place that has a bus or two to test drive, otherwise we would just put her behind the wheel of one. She is semi-mechanically challenged. She is currently driving a full size Chevy van and has only backed into a post one time. She is very confident with the van.

We are considering a shorter diesel bus for the assumed maneuverability advantage over the longer variety. We would use it about once a week, and she would need to drive it about once a month by herself.

We had an underpowered (3 cylinders working) VW bus with a sloppy shifter and weak carbs. She stalled it on a very steep driveway then could not get it restarted, set the ebrake to get out and get help, then discovered it would not hold the van, she soon discovered if she got out the thing would have rolled into traffic. I don't recall how she got out of the situation, but it has scarred her for life it seems. She found my 74 BMW 2002 annoying and sometimes difficult to drive, and it was in good mechanical condition. She did not mind my FIAT X-1/9. She prefers an automatic transmission - I still love her anyway.

We live in the mountains and see little traffic, but a lot of hills and twisty narrow roads.

So can some one compare cars, trucks, etc to driving a bus?

Other than mechanical condition, length, horsepower, A/C, and a good seat, is there anything else that I should look for when shopping for a bus that would aid in the drivability?

All replies welcome. Replies from women especially appreciated.

Thanks so much
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Old 04-06-2005, 03:59 PM   #2
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I don't find it too difficult to drive a bus. If anything they are easy to back up because of all the mirrors. You get to know exactly where you are in relation to everything.

When I was driving for a company, at least half the drivers were women, so I really don't think gender makes any difference at all.

One thing to remember is they have a HUGE blind spot directly behind them for about 20 feet (or longer) a large car of even a truck could easily be missed if they are tailgating. You can help eliminate this by doing a "zig-zag" to help see directly behind you - just go from one side of your lane to the other, this gets the rear end to swing a little left and right to narrow the blind spot. Another thing to remember is you are about 8ft wide (or more) and take up almost the whole lane, so lane positioning is very important. On narrow roads this can be an issue, especially when passing other large vehicles such as a semi or another bus.

My Dad is a professional truck driver and told me that putting your left foot up against the door (or left-most side of the bus) helps. Try to keep your left foot "on the line" or just to the right of it and you will be in the correct lane position. I tried this and found it really didn't do much for me, I think it's more mental than anything.
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Old 04-06-2005, 06:36 PM   #3
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The nearest thing to a bus is a Penske truck. You can rent a 25' model for the day and drive it around. When we moved we rented the 25' model. It is on an International chassis with a DT-466. Basically the same critter as a skoolie. My wife did fine with it after hitting a few curbs. Learning to turn wide was her biggest problem. I loved the thing, I wish I could buy one just to drive around. Maybe if I win the lotto.
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Old 04-06-2005, 08:37 PM   #4
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I personally don't know of anyone who just started learning to drive jump into any vehicle and drive flawlessly, it takes practice! Yes, busses are bigger than your daily driver, but do what you did when you first learned to drive, have someone who CAN, drive the bus to a large open lot and then you get behind the wheel and practice and get a feel for it. Once you are confident enough to hit the road, practice on little-used backroads until you feel confident enough to hit the main road.

Something else I have learned that works in ANY vehicle to keep it centered in the lane your in is this: remember hood ornaments, or the slight "pleat" that used to run down the center of the hood? It was there for a reason besides style & looks before hoods raked so quickly down the front of a car. Find the center of the front of your hood as viewed from the driver's seat. If you were to draw a line from your eyes that intersected through that center point on the nose of the hood to the side of the road (white line) and basically keep the vehicle positioned to maintain that line, your vehicle will be almost perfectly centered in the lane. This works for any vehicle, and any person's size / stature.

Try it sometime in any vehicle, stop your vehicle when you have positioned it as above, get out & see how close to the center of the lane your vehicle is.
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Old 04-06-2005, 09:46 PM   #5
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Most of the drivers in our school district are women and most of them are fairly petite. I don't think she would have any problem.
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Old 04-06-2005, 11:43 PM   #6
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My main car is a Chevy Suburban, probably similar in size to your van, both it and bus have to turn wide and its not much different. I never drove a bus till I took mine out for the first time. Just takes hitting a few curbs to learn where your rear tires are at.
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Old 04-07-2005, 01:37 AM   #7
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Don't underestimate the value of the "crossover" mirrors on the front of the bus. You can see the front tires and (at least on my bus) see down the side well enough to know how close you are to the lines.
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Old 04-07-2005, 10:04 AM   #8
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Ditto on what firearm said if you look at any school most of there drivers are females
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Old 04-08-2005, 12:14 AM   #9
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She'll do fine

I am a woman and had no problems (save the hitting the curb a couple of times) with driving my bus for the first time from Idaho to California. I of course was much more alert than normal but should we all be?

Anyway, practice practice practice is the key. Learn to back the bus up-a skill I'm mastering everytime I have to squeeze TCD through the fence at my house. Worship your mirrors! Practice turning around in a tight space-which I had to do in a space that was only 40 feet across while my bus is 35 feet. That takes some time but it can be done-again, use those mirrors!
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Old 09-13-2018, 12:11 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by busone View Post
The nearest thing to a bus is a Penske truck. You can rent a 25' model for the day and drive it around. When we moved we rented the 25' model. It is on an International chassis with a DT-466. Basically the same critter as a skoolie. My wife did fine with it after hitting a few curbs. Learning to turn wide was her biggest problem. I loved the thing, I wish I could buy one just to drive around. Maybe if I win the lotto.
Am so glad you put this comparison in because i was also concerned. Not any more. I moved from twin cities to Pittsburgh pa area. I drove a long penske. Never had a problem. Loved the drive. Didn't like pa and came back to mn after 7 months, but that's a whole other story. Bottom line, thank you for the encouragement.
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Old 09-13-2018, 02:10 PM   #11
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One of the best suggestions I got when I first started driving larger vehicles was to "drive further ahead" than you may be used to in your car.

Larger vehicles tend to be much less maneuverable and take more distance to stop. Look further ahead and allow additional time & distance to deal with obstacles & idiots.
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Old 09-13-2018, 02:22 PM   #12
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I drive a short(ish) diesel bus, automatic transmission, hydraulic brakes, that's about 25 feet from stem to stern. Maybe you'll end up with something similar. If so, I'd definitely tell your wife not to worry too much about the learning curve. Sounds like she can handle a manual transmission in a hilly area, and I think that alone is harder than driving the bus I drive.

I've found that in a bus the size of mine, the turning radius is actually pretty good. The Penske truck is a great comparison. You have to take things a bit wide, but often I'm surprised at how nimble the bus can be when I have to back into spaces. I would hope that if you drove it and felt OK, and then the two of you went somewhere where she could practice driving without much pressure, it wouldn't take long before she realized it's not too big a deal.

Good luck!
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Old 09-13-2018, 04:37 PM   #13
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I used to drive a Freightshaker with a 53' dry van/reefer behind. I find driving my Thomas much easier.
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Old 09-13-2018, 06:50 PM   #14
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I too wanted to get some experience before driving on the hwy.
I didn’t happen. I picked op my bus, all I knew was where to put the key. Then drove 1000miles....great trip.

Best advise I got:
1) Turn Wide
2) Light Foot (air brakes)
Easier than a Ryder truck. U can see so much more. Well, I have big windows and mirrors6C43AAE8-99FF-41B8-AF64-39AA42CC0784-427-000000381E3B2EDF.jpeg
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Old 09-13-2018, 06:57 PM   #15
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Meathead, on our buses, the best advice for turning is to wait until your butt passes the corner, then begin to turn.
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Old 09-14-2018, 11:18 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dphillips View Post
My lovely 110lb wife wants to know how difficult it is to drive a bus. Neither of us has ever driven a school bus. My assurances that she could handle driving a bus are not very meaningful, so we are seeking expert advice. We do not know any place that has a bus or two to test drive, otherwise we would just put her behind the wheel of one. She is semi-mechanically challenged. She is currently driving a full size Chevy van and has only backed into a post one time. She is very confident with the van.

We are considering a shorter diesel bus for the assumed maneuverability advantage over the longer variety. We would use it about once a week, and she would need to drive it about once a month by herself.

We had an underpowered (3 cylinders working) VW bus with a sloppy shifter and weak carbs. She stalled it on a very steep driveway then could not get it restarted, set the ebrake to get out and get help, then discovered it would not hold the van, she soon discovered if she got out the thing would have rolled into traffic. I don't recall how she got out of the situation, but it has scarred her for life it seems. She found my 74 BMW 2002 annoying and sometimes difficult to drive, and it was in good mechanical condition. She did not mind my FIAT X-1/9. She prefers an automatic transmission - I still love her anyway.

We live in the mountains and see little traffic, but a lot of hills and twisty narrow roads.

So can some one compare cars, trucks, etc to driving a bus?

Other than mechanical condition, length, horsepower, A/C, and a good seat, is there anything else that I should look for when shopping for a bus that would aid in the drivability?

All replies welcome. Replies from women especially appreciated.

Thanks so much
Coachcowlitz on this forum has trained a lot of people to drive buses including a lot of tiny older women. I drove our bus around in a parking lot for half an hour practicing before getting on the road. Front engine vs flat front is a little different. With a flat front you drive ALL THE WAY into the intersection and then turn. My son had no trouble at all driving it. He said he had played video games of truck driving!! And he was only 18 so he didn't have a ton of driving experience!! We practiced in a sand, gravel and mulch yard lot which was on the same property as the diesel mechanics shop where we picked the bus up. This was FABULOUS because you could make a turn and then see exactly where your tires had tracked in the dirt!!! Much better than cones or boxes although much dirtier. Use cones and boxes for practice a bit before driving so you (and your wife) can adjust to the air brakes and the turns.

The only curb I hit was turning into my own driveway (well, really I didn't HIT it so much as a did just drive over a couple of feet of it) but there were snow banks making the road skinnier than usual and I am pretty sure it wasn't physically possible to get it into the driveway without going over a curb.

I haven't driven it since then except to pull Mobi forward in the driveway about 5 ft. So we shall see how I do backing it out eventually!!!

I watched YouTube videos of the pre trip checks and of driving before going to pick it up. I'm a 50 year old mom that had never driven anything longer than a small moving van. The visibility is AMAZING!! You can see EVERYTHING.
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Old 09-14-2018, 12:37 PM   #17
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There are tons of grandmas & grandpas driving school buses all over the US. Can't be that hard to learn. Go for it.
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Old 09-14-2018, 01:37 PM   #18
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Old 09-15-2018, 02:02 AM   #19
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I was in the same boat - recently drove my new bus about 3 hours from Indianapolis without ever having driven a bus on public roads. Learned the importance of constantly checking the mirrors VERY quickly!
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Old 09-15-2018, 02:49 AM   #20
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Since the OP started this thread in 2005 I'm assuming she knows how to drive a bus now...
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