This post might seem out of place on a blog that’s almost exclusively devoted to buses which are more than 40 years old. It’s here because it is part of my bus driving story.
I’ve been job hunting recently and the good folk at Crosville Motor Services kindly offered me a few extra duties to help me out. One of these was a modern coach duty and I agreed to take it because I knew it would broaden my experience, apart from anything else. As it happens, what I learned on this day would come in very handy just a few days later.
I arrived at the depot to find three coaches, in Crosville’s white coaching livery, lined up in the sunshine. We were to provide these three coaches as part of a 16-coach hire to Millfield School, Street, Somerset. I had been allocated a ‘mentor’ to help me through my first duty with a modern coach and we worked through the walkaround checks together because there are more items to check than on a heritage bus. Seat belts, for instance.
Soon it was time to set off and initially I regretted saying that I knew the route into the school as I had done a ‘dry run’ at home with Google Maps. The other drivers saw this as their chance to get an easy drive and said “OK then, you can lead!” I’d had a guided tour of my new ‘office’, with all its dials and switches so I gingerly led the way out of the depot. The coach allocated to me was a Scania L94IB with 53-seat Van Hool bodywork. It has an automatic gearbox which is controlled by a series of push buttons located in a panel on the driver’s right, along with the air-operated parking brake. The journey out of Weston-super-Mare and along to the motorway junction at Brent Knoll was a bit hairy, as I hadn’t driven a coach of this size since the day I passed my test. In fact this one was larger than the one in which I took my test and I had to work hard to adapt my driving technique to cope with the longer wheelbase. I did nudge one curb on the way out of Weston but I think that, under the circumstances, that’s allowed!