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Old 02-26-2019, 04:36 AM   #1
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REMEMBER! Always Square Your Corners

I drove a school bus as my secular work for a while. It was the best job I ever hated! That's a different subject.

I see a lot of people talking about converting skoolies on this forum but very few talk about how to actually DRIVE the darned things. I think that this must surely be due to there being very few school bus drivers that want to convert a skoolie and very few skoolie nuts who ever drove one for a living. As a general rule, people who get paid to drive school buses everyday, taking the world's most precious cargo to and from school, are not the sharpest tools in the shed. And there are virtually none who make the transition to a forum like this one. This is because they are not the sort of people who would ever dream of converting one into something like what all of you fine folks are doing. As a general rule, the professional school bus driver is an automoton with zero imagination and is really just looking for the easiest way to get through each day with the least amount of effort. (Of course, the school system's managers are barely one step above.)

There are several rules of thumb that any good school bus driver has to remember each and everyday - EVERYTIME- s/he gets behind the wheel. At the risk of stating something that so many people may take for granted, please let me say a couple of rules that the school system hammered at us constantly and these are not in any particular order because they are all important:

How many people remember the two-second rule when it comes to driving?

This is that rule that says that, when you are following another vehicle, you allow two seconds between yourself and the vehicle in front. The car in front passes a mailbox and you begin to count: "One one thousand, two one thousand" and if you've already past that mailbox by the time you finish, "two one thousand," you're following too closely.

With a school bus, you need to at least double that amount. It is now the FOUR second rule. Much like OTR trucks, skoolies do not stop on a dime. Also, most of them have drum brakes. They are good brakes but prone to fade much sooner than discs would. All this means that if you are following traffic at the two-second rule that works fine for cars, sooner of later, YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE A CRASH! PERIOD! It's only a matter of time. I've now warned you.

When making turns, the rule is for you to Square Your Corners.

This means that, when you approach an intersection where you intend to turn, you keep the nose of that bus pointed straight down the road until your rear axle is even with the inside curb of the cross street. Then, while moving the bus very slowly, you spin that steering wheel as fast as you can in the direction of your turn. You keep one eye on the rear axle and use the mirrors to help you guide that rear wheel around the turn. For the casual observer, it looks as though you weren't going to make a turn at all when you first entered the intersection. It is called "squaring the corners" because it is the opposite of the standard arc that most people perform when they're driving their cars. Squaring the corner is especially important when making a right hand turn. At the school system during training, if you hopped the curb with your inside wheel, the instructor would start yelling:

"YOU JUST KILLED A CHILD! YOU JUST KILLED A CHILD!"

And he did this to drive home the point of just how important it is not to allow your wheels to hop the curb.

I wish I could explain this in a way that is more clear. But I would beg any person that reads this and is converting a skoolie, to please become aware of how these big yellow boxes move through traffic.
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Old 02-26-2019, 09:13 AM   #2
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Excellent post. I would add...

Get accustomed to always taking the right-most left turn lane whenever there's more than one, and...

Figure out what all those different mirrors are for. The flat ones are your primaries, the convex cover the blind spots for lane changes, and the "kid mirrors," the convex ones that cover the front of the vehicle, will completely mess with your head if you look at them when the bus is in motion.

Your driver's ed instructor probably stressed the importance of "head checks" for turns and lane changes when you learned to drive a car. This is something you need to un-learn. Performing a "head check" during a CDL road test will fail you, and for good reason. It points your head in a direction that gives you absolutely no useful input. Most people need to drive a bus a good deal (preferrably in an empty lot with orange cones to navigate) before getting accustomed to mirror operation.

These machines get to be a lot of fun to drive, but not until after a period of being kind of harrowing.

Just my 2 cents.
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Old 02-26-2019, 09:23 AM   #3
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Thanks for the post.

When I bought my first bus, I tracked down a couple of coach drivers and spent some time picking their brains before doing much driving.

Regarding school bus drivers, there are several that are members here.
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Old 02-26-2019, 09:36 AM   #4
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Thanks for the driving post! In my previous cars I had the bad habit of clipping corners. Now that I have the shortie I'm doing ok but occasionally still come close. Less crucial in a shortie but still, not a good idea.

As far as mirrors go, it did take me quite a while to figure them out. One thing that's really confusing is that the convex mirror makes objects look closer than they are, while the larger mirror they're mounted on seems to make them look further away than they are. This makes backing out of a tight parking space much more interesting.

I use the front convex driver's side mirror pretty much only to make sure I'm pulled all the way in to a parking space. I have a tendency to be overly cautious and leave a few feet in the front, which of course makes me stick out in back. Buster is 20 feet long so I should be able to fit fully in a standard parking space if I do it right.
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Old 02-27-2019, 12:49 AM   #5
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Thank you for the original post and also all the follow-up posts. Always good to hear as much as one can about how to drive these rather large vehicles.


My wife always reminds me (as we start out on a trip) ... "go long, go long". I think I may ask her to change that to "square your corners" as it is much more fitting to what you are doing.
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Old 02-27-2019, 06:39 AM   #6
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speaking of parking, - I was driving my 14' cube van - found a parking spot JUST big enough to fit the van into - took some back and forth jiggling to get close enough to the curb - while I was maneuvering the van into the spot, two old guys were sitting on a sidewalk bench watching my struggle - once parked, I plugged the meter, checked clearance front and back to see about 12" clear front and back, went to the door of the barber shop to find it closed for the day - back into the van to wiggle and jiggle my way out of the parking spot - meanwhile, the two old guys sitting on the bench still not saying a word, mouths half open in 'astonishment'? - made my way out, still without touching a bumper front or back, and thinking, 'what a waste of time, energy and parking money that was' - lol - still have the old cube van used for storing stuff I'll likely never need again, but it has an operable overhead door on the back that I plan to use on the skoolie conversion for the garage in back, once I get that far
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Old 02-27-2019, 07:12 AM   #7
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I know from experience that anytime you take any sort of RV into a campground and set up, you will for a time become the entertainment for all within visual distance. LOL, this has been one reason why I always practiced, practiced and practiced setting up and tearing down my camp BEFORE I arrived at the campground the first time.

It's also the reason I learned to use chopsticks really well, too. Yeah, so ... what do chopsticks have to do with setting up camp?

Nothing. It's just that the first time I knew I was going to have to use chopsticks in front of people that would be poking fun, I beat them at their own game by practicing ahead of time. At one point, I was proficiently lifting guitar picks off of a table with my chopsticks. That quickly put an end to those who were preparing to have a lot of fun at my expense. LMBO

Along that vein, I've discovered that my Prevost automatically levels itself when parked. It's amazing to see and makes me look like I've been driving the darned thing all my life.
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Old 02-27-2019, 07:24 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Native View Post
Thank you for the original post and also all the follow-up posts. Always good to hear as much as one can about how to drive these rather large vehicles.
Here is another aspect of driving these big vehicles that I don't think very many people give thought to.

My Prevost is turbocharged as are alot of skoolies. It has a switch for fast idle and slow idle. The proper starting procedure is to start it on slow idle and let it sit there for two minutes. Then I can go to fast idle to help warm things up.

When it is time to shut everything down, I go BACK to slow idle and let the bus sit there for two minutes again. This is all done so that the turbo unit itself has time to slow down without losing its oil supply. Lubrication to the turbo unit depends on oil pressure from the engine. If I have been driving for a while and I shut down without going to slow idle, it may be that the turbo will still be spooled up and spinning when I cut off the oil. NOT GOOD!

And of course, when I first start up, it can be the same. Fast idle will start spooling the turbo maybe before there is enough oil pressure to lube it properly.
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Old 02-27-2019, 01:02 PM   #9
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Nice post, in regards to the turbo, a turbo timer could be installed to ease the process. Gauges (accurate ones) are our friend when it comes to carrying for our buses.
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Old 03-22-2019, 10:20 PM   #10
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I have to agree with you on a lot. I drove school bus for about a year and get what you're talking about in regards to the other drivers. A small part of the reason I left was because I couldn't handle the stupidity of the other drivers. Unsafe practices never got dealt with by higher ups. They were so desperate for drivers that they let them get away with murder damn near.

I am certainly glad I learned how to drive school bus properly. Even taking field trips into downtown Portland, OR. Definitely learned how to pay attention to my turns, other drivers, & pedestrians when there is literally NO room for error.
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