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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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