Friday, August 5, 2016

Driving a school bus conversion

Today I just wanted to give my tips for driving a school bus conversion. I can't say much about mirrors because mirror systems vary between school bus types. I can, however say what they're like on conventional Carpenter and Thomas busses built on International/Navistar chassis.

  • Look ahead... Way ahead. Look about one city block ahead or at least 10-12 seconds ahead.
  • Remember you don't have antilock brakes and your stopping distance is longer.
  • If somebody is tailgating you, slow down and increase your following distance from the vehicle in front. Give yourself time to brake more cautiously in order to avoid having the tailgater run into you.
  • Go down hills 1 gear lower than the gear you used to go up the hill.
  • Use the braking effect of the engine to slow down on inclines. Your brakes will fade if they become hot. Set a target speed of say 35mph and when your speed rises to 35mph, app,y the brakes until you drop to 30mph then let the engine take the strain.
  • Know your route. Know where the runaway truck escape lanes are in case you have to use them.
  • If you have a rear puncture, the back will begin to shimmy. Press the accelerator until you regain co troll then brake slowly.
  • Always keep your thumbs outside the steering wheel. Rest them on it but never inside the wheel. In the event of a front puncture, the wheel will snatch and could break your thumbs if they're inside the wheel.
  • In the event of a front tyre blowout, the wheel will become hard to control. Press on the accelerator until you regain control. Then brake slowly. Steer into a skid.
  • Check your fluids before every trip.
  • In the event of a hydraulic brake failure, pump the brake.
  • It's unlikely but you might have air brakes. If you hear a buzzer or the pressure drops to 65psi, pull over immediately and stop. At 45psi the emergency brakes will come on, locking all your wheels.
  • Check your mirrors. The cross view mirrors show your front wheels. The convex mirrors show the entire of the side of your vehicle and the flat mirrors show the 200 feet behind.
  • If you're driving a Carpenter, like me then you will not be able to stick your head out of the window. Be extra careful on left turns.
  • Reversing - the best way to avoid reversing accidents is not to reverse. There is a cone shaped blind spot behind your vehicle.
  • Remember your height, length, weight and width. My bus is 10'6" high, 35 feet long, weighs 24,000lbs and is exactly 102 inches (8'6") wide from wing mirror to wing mirror.
  • Most car drivers do not understand vehicles bigger than their cars. They think that because they can stop on a dime, you can too. Give cars 100 feet following distance. Give big trucks 300 feet following distance.
  • Remember to carry your phone. If you have a puncture, you need specialist help. Bus tires are 85psi, are big and you won't be carrying a spare. You will need to call a mobile mechanic.
That's a brief note on driving busses. It's always worth taking the CDL A just for the learning experience. If you can do so then please do, it will give you these tips and a few more. The CDL B gives more tips and the S endorsement gives you school bus specific tips.

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