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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Articulated Buses - Watch Out For Them in Winter!
This a re-post of a guest post my brother did in August. I figured, now that winter is setting in after Thanksgiving, this would be a good time to remind us all: The following is a guest post from my brother, who aside from publishing quite a few great books, is a professional bus driver for the city of Minneapolis. As mentioned at the top of my blog, you never stop learning new things, and I really have never given these articulated buses any thought. Seems ludicrous to me that these things were designed with the powered drive wheels at the back! We as truck drivers frequently are navigating the streets and freeways with them and here are some tips of what to watch for in winter driving conditions. Thanks, Russ! Check out his published books at the link to his blog below! 

    It occurred to me that your vast "trucker" group might appreciate some unique information regarding articulated buses, since we are all on the road together, and in close proximity.
    This information is about the "articulated" or "accordian" buses; 60 feet long, with a "hinge" at about the 30 foot distance from the front. (My guess)
    They may look cool, hold a third more people, and can make turns in about the same radius as the normal 40 foot buses, but they can be much more dangerous on snow or ice!!
    First off, if the bus driver forgets to turn off the "brake retarder", which helps greatly on dry roads in slowing down the bus just by letting off the accelerator, you can start a "jack-knife" scenario on slippery roads that can be very dangerous. The braking without direct control on the brake pedal can result in an unintended "jack-knife" situation.
    Secondly, since the power of the bus comes from the rear tires, if the bus is not in a perfect straight line direction at the middle hinge, the middle of the bus can be "pushed" outward to the side if they are on ice or snow. The amount of "middle outward sliding" is related to how much of an angle the bus has, and how much power you give to the accelerator. Obviously, if the rear tires are on dry pavement, and the middle tires are on ice, this can shove the middle of the bus into another car or a wall that may be next to it. (Lesson learned early on my part)
    If the middle of the bus gets pushed too far into a "jack-knife" position, the hinge locks up and can no longer be driven forward or backward.
    This is why I try not to pick runs that require articulated buses during the winter. After 20 years, it is just too risky. Fun, but risky. Keep in mind that pulling out of bus stops always gives a slight angle to the bus coming off the curb. On ice, the middle sliding can be a constant problem. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty once said that "anybody" can be a bus driver, when we were possibly going to strike. I would love to see him try and tackle the skills necessary to drive a bus accident free for 20 years.

As a footnote to this information, I saw an article about "Why Use Articulated Buses in winter weather if they are more dangerous?" and the simple answer was that these buses make up a large percentage of the fleets in large cities due to their maximum capacity rider efficiency, and there is no alternative during rush hours when most of the buses are needed. Obviously, management sacrifices safety in return for practicality.
Russ Bridger's Book Publishing Blog


  1. You might want to take along a flashlight and chain repair links. Chains must be installed on the drive wheels. Make sure you know if your vehicle is front or rear wheel drive.

  2. Your headlights and taillights should be clear of snow. This will help other drivers to see you. Get a new set of headlight lenses if yours are old or sand-pitted.