Driving tired: bus & coach stories
A one-day school trip to Paris
That day I had to drive a group of happy kids to Paris. The bus was due to leave at 6 AM from the school in Diksmuide. That means that I had to leave the garage at 5:15 AM, leave home at 4:30 AM and get up at 3:30 AM. When we arrived in Paris, around 10:30AM, I dropped off the passengers and drove to the parking eager to take my 9-hour rest period. By the time the bus is parked, it’s already 11 o’clock, which means that the bus will be able to leave again starting from 8PM that night. My passengers thought they would leave with a well-rested driver but less was true! Outside, 25 degrees Celsius. It was almost unbearable to sleep in the cabin. I can’t leave the engine running because of environmental issues, so sleeping is proving to be an impossible task in that heat. When 8 PM rolled around, it was time to leave again. By now I had been awake for approximately 16,5 hours. Picking up the kids and going back to their school with the required stop halfway along the ride. By the time we reach the school it’s 1 AM already, after dropping them off, I have to get to the garage, prepare the bus for the next ride (cleaning up). The clean-up takes me around 2 hours, so by the time it’s done, it’s 3AM. I still had to go home and then try to catch some sleep. After a shift of 25 hours, without a decent chance of sleep, it’s almost impossible to keep staying focused. I then ask myself where safety comes into place in all of this? And there is always the next working day: If you’re having some bad luck, you have to get back to the garage for an afternoon trip at 12 PM, while you only had 11 hours of so-called rest.
A day in London
The day starts of at 5 AM in Bruges and I and my colleague are in charge of taking a group of passengers for a London tour. With this early departure, both I and my colleague have been awake since 3 AM. Taking the ferry from Calais to Dover, once we arrived we switch driver and head to London. In London we do a city tour of approximately 3 hours. A couple of hours on the parking, picking up the passengers and back home it is. By the time we arrive back to Bruges it’s close to midnight. Heading towards the garage and cleaning the bus, this time we’re in luck, we’re with 2 so the work goes quicker! By the time we’re both back home it’s 2 AM again. The next day, the same story repeats but now I’m heading to the Ardennes. I pick up my passengers at 9 AM. And this makes me think: the bus got 9 hours rest but I only got about 4 to 5 hours of sleep. When you get 6 of those days in 1 work week, you’re a happy man when you finally get to your free day, it’s a welcome retrieve from the constant pressure but at the same time it’s so short! It’s not because a bus gets to “rest” for 9 hours at night that the driver is able to take advantage of those 9 hours, there are more factors to consider. The body cannot sleep when it’s commanded to sleep, that’s not how this works.
Well, very recently I was in Barcelona. Not as a tourist, as my fellow passengers, but as a … bus driver. Our last day in Barcelona, everyone had checked out and we left the hotel. I allowed my group to have a full day in the city centrum and meanwhile I took my 9-hour rest period. But in my bus there is no sleeping cabin and it was 25 degrees outside. I couldn’t leave a door open to quench some of the heat and to have some fresh air in the bus. I ended up not sleeping at all. That same evening I had to start a drive of 1400 km. I have had nicer things happen to me.
This winter I drove a lot of skiing trips, and this is the story of one of them. My colleague and I left the home town with our passengers on a Friday evening at around 4 PM for a trip of 1100 km. When we arrived at destination, at around 11 AM, we dropped our passengers off at a hotel. For them, a long journey was coming to a happy end: a hotel room and some good rest. For us however the working day was not over yet. Well, we first had to find a parking, and then clean the bus to have it ready for the trip back home later that night. Our next lot of passengers insisted to have the luggage loaded at 8 PM. We thus had about 8 hours of rest before that. In that supposed 8 hours of resting time, we had to eat and sleep too. After we had a meal, we got the key of an apartment, trying to sleep during the day is quite difficult. Body clock – it is difficult to give your body order to fall asleep. After a couple of hours of frustration, I took a shower and had something to eat, went out and started loading the luggage for the return drive. Luckily for me and my coworker, the nocturnal trip went well. Driving safely is expected of us, but they don’t make it easy for us. In the end, we as drivers are still held responsible for our own actions.