Only a few days after passing my Driver CPC qualification, I was given my first driving duty in a heritage bus. I was already due to be on duty for a private hire job yesterday but, when the Work Ticket arrived, it showed that I was the driver! With a curious mix of excitement and anxiety building towards the weekend, I spent several hours studying the route I was to take.
Drivers on regular routes sometimes have the luxury of learning a route with another driver but a private hire job is more like coach driving I suppose, in that every job is different and it’s largely up to the driver to make sure he knows the best and safest route. How did they manage before Google Maps? I found Google Street View incredibly helpful as I worked out the best routes between the various pickup points. It lets you do a ‘virtual’ dry run! So when it came to actually driving yesterday it all seemed so familiar – “I’ve been this way before”!
I arrived at the Crosville Motor Services garage in plenty of time so that I could take the bus out briefly before setting off for the first pickup point. Although I’ve qualified as a PCV driver and I have driven heritage buses before, I don’t have many hours of experience so a little familiarisation seemed like a good idea.
Hang out the flags and break out the bubbly – I’ve finally qualified as a professional bus and coach driver!
Today I passed the 4th and final module of my Driver CPC qualification, the Practical Demonstration Test. I booked some training time with Carmel Coaches in Exeter, who also provided their training bus for the test. It was the same one I had for the Practical Driving Test a few weeks ago.
I turned up at the Carmel Coaches yard a bit early and wished I hadn’t. I get really nervous in these situations so I took myself off to Sainsbury’s just around the corner to buy a drink (juice, of course) and to calm my nerves. The Carmel instructor, Martin, walked with me along to their storage compound and I started to feel a little more at ease. We found the bus, a Dennis Javelin of 1994 vintage, and went over some of the questions I’d fluffed last time.
Yes, dear reader, I took this test last week and failed. In the ‘show me, tell me’ test there’s a section which deals with security and prevention of crime. This focusses on the steps a driver would take if the bus had been tampered with at a border crossing. I had gone through the motions of searching the bus, inside and out, for hidden packages and children lying in the luggage racks but had forgotten to mention a head count, in case of people trying to smuggle themselves aboard along with the regular passengers. In the ‘daily checks’ section I had spent too long checking the outside of the vehicle and didn’t get as far as starting the engine and building up air. The time allowed for the test had expired and last week I didn’t pass.