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Letters

An open letter to bus owners

You bus owners may want to check out how your asset is being used. From my experience in riding pretty much every route on Grenada over the years, there’s a lot of abuse going on, not to mention dangerous habits.

Over the decades, I have driven everything from fire trucks to military full tracked armour, and, yes, sports/racing cars on actual race circuits.

Most drivers are reasonably smooth and safe, but some are at least hard on the machines and the passengers, if not dangerous to themselves and nearby cars. It becomes obvious soon after the machine begins to move, whether or not the driver knows what he is doing, or cares.

Many of the drivers have no idea of how to properly even change gears. The worst habit is probably ‘power shifting’, where the driver gets on the fuel before the clutch is fully engaged. You can get a spurt of increased speed doing this, but burn off several miles worth of clutch material for each shift.

A few drivers seem to do this literally on every upshift. On one bus the other day, the passengers could smell burnt clutch material inside the bus.

And the same drivers usually do everything in stabs, like braking. Instead of applying the brakes at a level, and slowing down smoothly, they stab at the brakes, making several applications and releases for each stop or reduction in speed.

Not only are these habits harder than necessary on the equipment, it is no fun for the passengers either. One could get a stiff neck that way.

These immature drivers also steer in jerks. Like braking, they wait until they are at a pot hole before making a sudden pull at the wheel to avoid hitting the hole. Then they are just as abrupt at getting back on their course.

Speed is another way to wear out vehicles and parts early and expensively, as when one is doing 1 1/2 times the reasonable speed on a straight section.

This is more than unnecessary. In a curve, one can often hear the tyres complaining, This is not just hard on the tyres, but also steering and suspension. Someone ought to inform these speed demons that they are not driving a sports/racing car, but a moving metal box full of people.

Staying in one’s own lane is, to safe drivers, a ‘no brainer’. But some of these bus pilots run in the middle of the road, even on blind curves…

On the general operation of the machine, we see massive fuel waste. Drag race starts, excessive speed and other habits are using probably twice the fuel that would be necessary to get the bus along its route.

Fuel prices being what they are, unless the driver is paying for the gas, your profits are going out the tail pipe. Either way, the wear on the machine is much increased with fast driving.

A close cousin to speed is tail gating. When you are within short distance of the car ahead, you have no chance of stopping or turning if the one ahead slows or stops suddenly. I don’t care how young and quick you think you are.

Last on my list is the noise. Some of these drivers seem bent on damaging their hearing, as well as that of the passengers. They even install big bass speakers under the seats, aimed up at the passengers! They also install small speakers right at ear level on the passengers, as though harming people’s hearing was their intent.

Occasionally, when someone asks that the sound be turned down, the driver usually looks at the requester and turns the sound down about one percent, with a grin on his face. If passengers want music, everyone today carries a cell phone capable of receiving radio, and carrying lots of tunes in the memory.

One bus I was on recently not only had a video screen about a foot square above the sound controls, there were video screens on both sun visors! The driver was clearly glancing at the one in front of him, while driving in traffic.

Owners. Some of these children you are hiring are damaging your machine, adding lots of cost to the upkeep of your valuable investment and drastically increasing the chances of accidents.

Even if you can afford the wasted money, some of these road demons are an accident looking for a place to happen. You may also want to consider possible harm to other cars and people.

On the matters of both safety and loud ‘music’, the police could send an occasional plain-clothed rider around on buses. There must be some basic rules on speed, overtaking and passing other cars on corners, and cornering with a couple of tyres crying out in complaint. After all, it is officialdom that certifies the machine and the drivers to be reasonably safe.

Or you owners could have a trusted friend take an occasional ride on your bus, to see if the hired pilot is doing a fair job, or abusing your asset to your harm.

The one main trait of a good, safe driver is usually smooth operation of the machine. The only way you can tell a shift with a good driver is that the engine changes speed. You don’t feel a thing.

I asked one driver the other day if he owned the machine he was operating. I was not surprised to hear that he did. Everything he did was smooth and safe. And he had music playing quietly in the background. It was a pleasure to ride with him, and I told him so.

Don Smith