Tips for Driving a School Bus for the First Time
A full-size school bus is a 40’ truck that is 12’ tall that weighs about 20,000lbs. The thing turns like a whale and has an ass that sticks out and accentuates any turns. There’s not much that can prepare you for the first drive if you’ve never driven anything this large before. I’ve never driven anything larger than a 15 passenger van before.
The school bus was located in the Orlando suburbs, so I had to navigate this behemoth through small and crowded streets. The first 100 miles were stressful as I learned where my comfort level lay and where the sides of the bus were. I learned some strategies for driving the bus that were helpful and I’ll pass them along for anyone else who might benefit. There’s really no need to be afraid. Just be cautious, check your mirrors, and don’t be in a rush.
Driving a vehicle with a turbo that lagged as much as the one on the bus was new for me and the acceleration was surprising when approaching stop signs. The engine spools up but whether due to age or the quality of the turbo it gets to a high RPM but doesn’t kick the turbo on. Learning how to anticipate this was important to driving the bus predictably.
Turning is one of the hardest things to describe without an image, but mastering turns was incredibly useful. Delayed turns are the key to driving anything with a rear wheelbase so far back from the front wheels. Also slightly disconcerting are the front wheels in a transit bus, as they’re behind you. For example, when you make a left turn, don’t start the turn until you’ve reached the lane you’re about to turn into. For right turns, just make sure that the wheels have hit the midpoint of the lane you’re about to turn into.
Finally, I’m a long-distance driving junkie. I love long trips, but the stock headlights on school buses are worthless on pretty much any road. Additionally, I consider myself to be in great shape, and after two hours of driving, the pedal pressure was destroying my leg and knee. Stops every 2 hours or so were required in order to prevent a leg cramp…. also the gas gauge on the bus isn’t functioning so even though I have a 65 gallon tank, I really only felt comfortable driving about 200 miles or so.
Hopefully these tips are useful!