Autumn on the buses

We seem to be in the depths of winter now, with miserable weather and dark evenings lowering everyone’s mood. So I thought I would do a roundup of some of my autumnal perambulations with heritage buses.

The open top sightseeing tours actually finished on October 2nd, the weather having remained unusually bright and mild until then. Normally the season ends on September 31st. On the last day, even before the engine had cooled, I took the ex-Southport Corporation PD2 to her winter quarters, a secure location ‘somewhere in South Devon’.

FFY403-in-storageHere she is, in company with an open top Bristol VRT. The ‘standby bus’, a 1982 ex-London Transport MCW Metrobus, would join the PD2 later.

YDL318-Thornbury-Castle

A few private hire jobs for Crosville have also come and gone (unrecorded by this blog thus far) including trips to Kingston Seymour, Frome, Thornbury Castle (pictured left) and Ashton Court (pictured below).

KFM893-Ashton-Court

 

The Torquay-based open top Metrobus had to remain on the road a little longer as her MoT was due and I took her down to the Plymouth Citybus depot at Milehouse for this. She stayed there for a week or so to have some chassis and braking issues sorted out before she regained her Class 6 status. On my way back to Torquay I passed through Totnes and couldn’t resist parking her up at Steamer Quay where I often used to park while driving for Rail River Link last year!

KYV633V-Steamer-QuayAs you can see, it was a very wet day and the bus was running with water by the time I got back so before long I was called upon again to take her over to the storage facility for the winter. There she joined her sightseeing stablemate, along with several other vehicles very familiar to your writer!

KYV633V-in-storageComing bang up to date, today I completed a day-long Road Traffic Incident and First Aid course. This is part of my Driver CPC periodic training. I have to carry out 35 hours of classroom-based training every 5 years to keep my professional driving qualifications current. It wasn’t all theory, all the candidates had to take part in a series of test scenarios where assessment of casualties, use of bandages and CPR were covered. In one of these I took the part of a casualty with a damaged shoulder and a massive leg injury. There wasn’t any fake blood but there was plenty of simulated pain! Unfortunately, the two candidates who were assessing and treating me didn’t pick up on my bleeding leg (a sticky label on my trousers took the place of blood) so, while they successfully strapped up my shoulder, I went into shock and died from loss of blood! Fortunately this was all play-acting, otherwise I would be writing this from ‘the other side’.

At the moment I have two more private hire jobs in the diary for 2014. As they are both in December, I may have to dig out some warm gloves and my big Tilling overcoat!

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Back to the classroom for Driver CPC Periodic Training

In order to keep my professional driving qualification current I have to undergo regular classroom training. The rules of the Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) state that, for newly qualified drivers such as me, I have to do 35 hours of training within 5 years of gaining my initial CPC entitlement.

I took the first module a few days ago – a day-long course on driving hours and tachographs that left my head spinning by the end! Fortunately I didn’t have to go very far to do this, in fact I booked with SRTS in Exeter, just a stone’s throw from the VOSA Test Centre where I passed my test last year. There were 4 other guys taking the same module that day, making the session very easy to contribute and ask questions during the day. Usually, when the room is full with 25 participants, interaction is difficult.

The course doesn’t have a test element, although we did do 2 simple quizzes to test our knowledge. There being no pressure to pass or fail, I found it a much better environment in which to absorb the information. I succumb very easily to nerves in a test or exam situation!

The trainer knew his subject back to front but struggled on the day with a very sore throat and a gravelly voice that threatened to break up and disappear altogether. On the feedback form at the end I gave him 10 out of 10 for persistence in the face of adversity!

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Driver CPC Practical Demonstration Test passed

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.

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PCV Theory Test certificate

In today’s post I received my PCV Large Vehicle Theory Test Pass Certificate which confirms that I can go ahead and book my Practical Driving Test. The pass is valid for two years but somehow I don’t think it will be anywhere near that long before I take my practical test!

To drive professionally, which I may want to do later this year, I will also need to take my Driver CPC Case Studies Theory Test. This is based on information I’ve already learned while preparing for the 2-part test that I’ve just passed. It presents a series of theory questions based around a fictitional scenario, or Case Study. I suppose it’s designed to check that I understand how I would put the theory into practice, without actually doing it.

Anyway, I booked that module today and I’m due to take it in a couple of weeks time.

Hazard Perception Test passed

Another step closer – I passed the Hazard Perception part of my PCV Driver Theory test today.

Following the advice of several people who have taken the test recently, I tried to perfect the technique of clicking the mouse at the right time to score highly. The practice DVD from the Driving Standards Agency was a great help and I watched the introduction to the test today twice, just to be sure of my strategy.

There were 19 separate video clips, each filmed from the roof of a van (I saw it reflected in a back window once!). They showed a variety of scenes, some in town, some on country roads and one on a motorway. Each contained several potential hazards plus one that developed into a situation where the driver needed to take avoiding action. One clip had two fully developed hazards.

Highest points were scored when I recognised potential hazards early and clicked again if they developed. There were 100 points to be gained, the pass mark is 67 and I scored 75. Not flying colours exactly, but comfortable.

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