Behind the scenes: Preparation for a bus trip
Friday, March 21, 2014
Many of you are obviously aware of what goes on during a motorcoach trip, but have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes? What goes on to make the trip flow so easily and what your driver does to make sure that there are no problems along the way?
A lot of this is also done by the escort you may have, but for my purposes I will talk from the driver's point of view — after all, that's what I am.
Well in advance of the departure date, I am given the charter order that has basic information on it: the coach I will be driving, a date and time for leaving as well as the load point and finally a date and time I should arrive back at the base.
The folder will also have in it maps for almost everywhere that the trip plans on going, including directions from point A to point B. Our dispatcher works hard on this and makes sure all the bases are covered.
She will put in detailed directions for every step of the route. From the drive to the destination to any trips the group has planned, she will map it out. She also puts in detailed overhead shots of tricky places and suggests parking for the coach when needed.
I have never had to ask for any of this, but I do make sure that I thank her for them, and I also make suggestions for anything that crops up on the trip.
Once we have the folder completed, I will usually take it home with me a few days before to read over and review so I can ask any questions or point out any potential problems with the routing. This is the only time I have to talk to the dispatcher as once I am out on the road, I can be on my own.
If I have an escort, then he can call the office for advice if needed. I will usually take the time to enter in the different stops in the GPS and start to plan the route.
At this point, I make use of Google Maps a lot. I can plan the route down to the turn and even modify it if I know there are problems with some of the roads. I will also look up the road reports for each state that I will be travelling through, looking for construction that could cause delays with the journey — nobody likes sitting on a nonmoving coach on the road.
Once I'm happy with the routing and the stops and have had all my questions answered, it's time to check the coach out. This can happen anytime from one hour to one day before the departure.
We have a lot of stuff that needs to be checked out and fixed if needed before we leave the depot. We have to check everything from the smallest light bulb in the bathroom to the engine mounts. It is a long process that often takes me over an hour to complete — and that is before I start to add the supplies I need.
I check every single fluid and top up as needed. I walk the exterior of the coach checking the tires and bodywork, looking for anything that could cause problems farther down the road. I will check the entire engine bay and flag anything to our mechanic that may be a problem and get it fixed before I leave.
My supplies will include enough garbage bags for the trip, spare toilet paper and chemicals for the toilet so that it won't smell halfway through a multiday trip. I also make sure the first-aid kit is fully stocked and ready for action.
All of our buses have a box in the luggage bays that carries spare fluids, belts and cleaning supplies. On a long trip, I try to sweep and mop the bus at least once during the time I am down there.
Once the bus has been checked over and any problems corrected, it's time to hit the road. With a final check of load time and departure times we hit the road for a well-thought-out and planned trip.
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