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Saturday, December 12, 2015

A Day in the Life of a Bus Driver

Here's a guest post thanks to and written by my brother Russ, a Metro Transit Bus Driver for the city of Minneapolis. Those buses that bend in the middle with the rear drive tires pushing are very scary to me! I'm sure glad I don't have to drive them things.

November 30th, 2015 
A snowstorm during the night. The first of the season. It's 7 AM and the sand trucks have not started yet, as usual for the initial storm.

My start for the day gives me a long 60 foot articulated (accordion) bus that has the flexible joint in the middle, with the heavy engine in the back, and the drive wheels are the rear tires. Very difficult to drive in snow and ice.

As I start out my bus route I've picked up a few passengers. Each time I try to pull over and pick up someone, the bus keeps sliding forward a few feet no matter how slow I'm going. Very dangerous for the one standing outside next to the front door. That's why we try to keep 4 feet from the curb.
Every intersection seems to be packed down with snow, and icy. Black ice, the worst and most slippery. Very hard to stop or start without sliding or spinning the rear tires.

I'm coming down a double lane divided main road to an intersection with stop and go lights. There are several cars stopped in each lane waiting on a red light. I'm going very slow trying not to brake too hard so the tires don't start sliding. I'm only going 5 miles an hour, but every time I push on the brakes, the back end pushes forward and starts the bus to jackknife. The worst of all scenarios. I see the nightmare happening in my side mirror. I have to let off the brake and keep rolling to stop the disaster. But I'm getting ever closer to the stopped cars. I retry braking to slow the bus down further but the same thing happens. Jack-knife starts again. It's a time game, waiting for a green light so the cars will have a chance and start moving. But its a long light. I see an out with a right lane turn only possibility, but then I would be making a turn and not being able to continue my regular route. It would take a half hour to get back on track in this weather. I continue to play the nightmare out in slow motion, hoping against hope that the light will change, the cars will move forward, and I won't run into the back of the car ahead. My heart is thumping. My eyes darting from front, to the right turn lane, to the side mirror watching my bus jackknifing. I would be crossing my fingers if I had the time. Black ice, sliding bus, hoping against hope.

And then the light turns, the cars start moving, and once again I have avoided an at-fault accident that would have ruined my 22 year safe driving record. Holy crap!

I won't even get into the later problems of the air brakes losing the air due to constant braking, requiring constant pull overs to rev the engine to get back some air. It was a very bad morning.

Footnote: There would be over 400 reported traffic accidents statewide that day.

Russ Bridger, Metro Transit Bus Driver – Minneapolis Minnesota

Here's a couple of links to related posts:


  1. Hey Russ, I've been thinking about that situation. I assume that those buses have automatic transmissions. In a braking situation on snow and ice at very low speed, I wonder if shifting into neutral would have helped in any way. If the front brakes are doing more work than the rear, the power from the engine going through the tranny could be pushing the rear into a jackknife, even at idle speeds if you are going slow enough. Is it possible to shift into neutral while the bus is moving?

  2. I believe you are correct Dan. Thanks so much !!!!