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Old 07-24-2017, 12:43 AM   #1
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How to drive a school bus...

Serious question everyone: How hard is it to drive a school bus? I don't care if you laugh, I'll admit it: I'm intimidated.

I'm used to driving a 2000 dodge grand caravan, learned to drive in a van, school used a van for driving instruction, gramma always had a van, I love my van, I can see everything around me, I'm up higher than in a car, in a car I feel far too low, feel like I can't see my nose, etc.

An average sized typical school bus looks HUGE. Much taller, MUCH longer, and (possibly?) wider than anything I've ever driven before.

Can you see behind you? Can you see at your sides? What if you knock someone off the road because you didn't see them trying to pass in your blind spot? Either side?

I guess I'm nervous because I think I'm getting MUCH closer to my Skoolie and I'm the kind of person who usually makes DAMN SURE before she jumps into things. Imagine buying a school bus and finding I couldn't drive it?

Am I worrying too much? I'm not a crappy driver, I'm a careful driver. Seems like everyone here had no problems learning to drive one. At least I haven't seen anyone say so...

Also, I LOVE my dodge caravan. I want to keep it after I get my bus. Think I would legally be able to tow it behind? See, that sounds even scarier than driving the bus alone. Towing? Could I really? The van would add even more length, would it count if it pushed the total length over 40 feet if like, 9ft of it is van?

Would I be too tempted to never drive the bus and just live in the bus and drive my van? Not exercising my bus can lead to problems, this I know. But I'm not sure driving my bus around town for groceries and parking it at work is the best idea either...

Once I have the bus, I figure I'll work on it and save money for a while, but eventually I plan to move to Minnesota, get a new job that hopefully pays better, and pay off my student loans. I plan on finding a lot I can rent and park my bus, and mb trying to find a way to work from home. Trying to figure out exactly how that will look...

Sorry yall, up and wired with anticipation again. MB I should go for a wee walk...
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Old 07-24-2017, 04:31 AM   #2
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Its not difficult to learn. The first time I've ever driven one was 7 months ago when we went & picked it up. It was weird to say the least.
He PO turned on a dirt road, pulled over & said "your turn".
We paid him & drove very carefully to a hotel. Next day we headed home on the interstate. That is the best way to learn. No turning & thou can get a feel for the size of the bus.

Rear visibility is still a issue I'm working on. A parking lot & road cones would be a good place to help with that. I bought some small mirrors @ Wal Mart that has been a awesome aid.

Good luck & take your time.
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Old 07-24-2017, 07:48 AM   #3
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Maybe you can get someone you know who has driven busses or trucks to take your bus out on a rural road like on a sunday am, and let you take control to start from there. This is how i have taught others to drive. most are scared, but get used to driving in about one hour. Second, if you have a school district bus company like First Student, go to their bus barn and ask for a driver to help you learn. Also ask them to have you do backing, and paralell parking, tight corners, etc. Someone will be glad to help you, and it wont cost you too much money, and will give some part time driver additional income and probably a new friend.
You will also learn about your mirrors, air brake service valve and so forth. Is good information and experience.
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Old 07-24-2017, 07:52 AM   #4
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alot depends on the sizr of the bus and also how you adjust your mirrors.. take some time adjusting them with someone.. and then take your new bus on a quiet morning to a walmart parking lot and practice driving it around.. or placing it somewhere... ie usong the lot lines as a guide.. ytou park it in a group of spots and in your mind you have a perception of where your bus landed.. now get out and walk around it.. and no exactly where it did land.. practicing turns using cones or 5 gallon buckets.. measure the width of the parking lot spaces.. they are most often 8.5-9 feet.. normal road lanes are usually 12 feet on interstates and 9-12 feet on 2 laners.. now drive up and practice a turn using the parking space lines like your NARROW road lines and get a feel for how far you have to pull out to not hit the bucket you placed...

you can use other people as well to stand as guides ..

for me it just sort of happened.. the first time I drove a full size 65 passenger bus was when I was lik maybe 13? (ok all i did was drive it around a circular suburban street...).. for real was when I was 16 and my school bus driver had her own personal Superior that she let me drive fairly often .. we played in a Lofinos grocery parking lot for a few and then I took to the streets..

you'll get the hang of it pretty quickly... you'll probably make all of your turns overly wide at first.. (it is Fun making the traffic back up so you can make your right turn..)

-Christopher
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Old 07-24-2017, 11:01 AM   #5
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You have to plan your route before turning and you get yourself in a bad spot.
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Old 07-24-2017, 11:48 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cadillackid View Post
(it is Fun making the traffic back up so you can make your right turn..)

-Christopher
HAA! lol Yeah I expect I'll make a lot of driver's days being super careful and taking up their precious time with all my silly ''safety' crap...

I live in a rural area so finding quiet spots to practice should be no problem, there's a host of country roads just south of my back door.

I also know my old high school bus barn, the people there MIGHT just give me some pointers. I think it would be MARVELOUSLY funny if the woman who drove me to school years ago, now retired, taught me to drive a school bus now. Talk about full circle eh?

Concerning rear visibility, I figured I would buy those rear view cameras, but I won't have them at first. Backing up in a 40 foot beast sounds like something I will try to avoid at all costs lol
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Old 07-24-2017, 12:03 PM   #7
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It's all about practice. Onc eyou figure out your geometry you'll be fine. You need to pay more attention to where you're going. Parking lots will be a challenge, even with my short bus I park in the back o the lot where I can take 2 spaces without offending anyone. The thing that took me a while to get used to was how far back the rear wheels were, if you've ever pulled a trailer it's a similar deal. You need to go deeper into turns to avoid curb jumps.

Edit: I should mention ghat my GF is awful at driving the bus because she hasn't yet figured out how far away the right side oft he bus is. I don't let her drive because it'll go right into a ditch.
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Old 07-24-2017, 01:02 PM   #8
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Unless someone has spatial or depth perception issues, driving a bus is easy with a little practice.

Heck...look at all the grannies and grandpaws that now do it daily. They mostly didn't start until around 60.

Big, empty parking lots are great to practice in BTW. Find a closed down Big Box store and have some fun with cones!

I used to drive, maneuver and park my 40' BBAA down the narrow, dirt walking paths at outdoor antique shows with a jillion dollars worth of collectible glass and porcelain inches from my sides and bumpers. That said...my ex-wife did usually keep her eyes closed until I shut the engine off.
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Old 07-24-2017, 02:10 PM   #9
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That said...my ex-wife did usually keep her eyes closed until I shut the engine off.
Women!!

Dream,
Where do you live now? Aren't you near me somewhere; PA I thought. If so, there's a school bus dealer in Duncannon. I could meet you there and take one of their buses for a "test drive".

I find driving the 40 foot bus easier than the 26 foot U-Haul. I still have all of the windows in it so visibility is very good.. Mine is rear engine so there is a blind spot there of sorts. Anything shorter than 6 feet can hide. A car can hide if on your bumper but if he hits you it's his fault/problem. The mirror that the driver uses for keeping an eye on the darling little snot-lickers makes a decent car rear view for cars further back or big stuff like buildings or trees. The mirrors on my bus are great for seeing along the sides. I bought cameras but haven't installed them (yet).

As mentioned, you need to check out gas stations before committing. Don't go down tiny little two rutted roads as there isn't likely to be a place to make a u-turn.

As Tango and Cadi mentioned, I just "get" driving. I can look at a car and tell you if it'll fit in a spot or not. I wasn't paying attention to the driver's ed guy in HS or I was impatient with his directions... either way he finally said "Go ahead you've got 30 seconds to parallel park." Fine, what do I do with the 20 seconds left over?
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Old 07-24-2017, 03:14 PM   #10
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pay attention to your mirrors and remember who is coming. have as many mirrors as you can, and possibly different types like convex/concave.
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Old 07-29-2017, 08:03 PM   #11
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Mirrors are your friends. Use them, even the big Kiddie Watcher mirror inside. After you purchase your bus, you can add a rear-view camera, but you'll not use it often. Most of your driving is done going forward.

As for steering, remember the length of the bus means a lot. Turning left isn't much of a problem; turning right is. Again, use your mirrors. If your new bus is conventional, your turning is about the same as your family car. If you have a transit style, remember that you have to wait until your butt passes the corner.
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Old 07-29-2017, 08:38 PM   #12
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Help me out, what's the difference between conventional and transit buses? Do you mean dog nose vs. flat nose?
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Old 07-29-2017, 08:54 PM   #13
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I don't speak "dog nose" or "flat nose." Those are YOUR terms, not mine. My bus (see avatar) is a transit style. I sit, literally, at the scene of the accident. If I had a conventional style, one with a hood, then I walk to the accident.

You see, I drove for a living in a conventional Freightliner Century Class Class VIII tractor.
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Old 07-29-2017, 09:01 PM   #14
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Just add on behind that sleeper and you'd have one sweet rig.
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Old 07-29-2017, 09:09 PM   #15
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Wonder what one would look like with an Argosy setup?
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Old 07-30-2017, 12:56 AM   #16
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I don't speak "dog nose" or "flat nose." Those are YOUR terms, not mine.
That seemed unnecessarily snotty. I learned those terms in this forum.
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Old 07-30-2017, 07:37 AM   #17
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Your worrying too much the. I think the best part of doing a bus conversion is driving the thing. I am 40ft long and have no worries use your mirrors take your turns wide and most of all be mindful of your tail swing. Your back axle acts as a pivot point when you turn right it will swing left. And always be looking ahead e.g. Don't pull into a fast food parking and the only way out is the exit around the side of the building and there are cars parked on both sides.
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Old 07-30-2017, 09:09 AM   #18
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If you ever wander through zip 86333, look me up. I've taught basic CDL stuff in the past, we can take a ride.
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Old 07-30-2017, 11:39 AM   #19
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actually one can manuver with a trlr attached in pretty much any service station, I know I can. I just watch my trlr swings and the rear portion of it, and can back up to within a couple feet of whatever is there, so is not a problem. However, that being said, I had to learn to back up trailer of freight to our loading dock when I was 16 when I started driving.. just takes practice and careful looking...
having the cameras now is a very good idea. i put one on my RE about 3 yrs ago, and actually, is good idea to put one going down each side as well, and maybe across the front, and pointing down at the rear, as well as maybe on top to look for low clearance issues... School busses should have them on the outside as well, but at least they are in the inside now...when I mentioned this to two bus companies both said they didnt have the money for outside cameras.
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Old 07-30-2017, 04:56 PM   #20
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You mentioned how much you like the visibility out of your van. Well, a school bus has even more visibility.

Once you've had a few hours behind a flat nose bus it will seem easier to drive than a car. Dog nose not so much.

And right turns on a flat nose aren't that much more difficult than a car. Don't swing wide, just pull out a little farther.

Seriously, after 50 ~ 100 hours of driving experience you'll start to realize you can drive it in almost the same spaces as a car.

Adding a cheap back up camera would give you a little peace of mind I'm sure.
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