I have been a bus driver since October 2006. I know the inside story, the scoop, the down low dirt of what it takes to be a bus driver, how to handle kids and adults, and how to survive on the "streets" so to speak. I have a blog, feel free to browse it or ask me a question here.
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Since I do not drink by choice, I don't know if there is an unofficial "rule". Since alcohol is NOT illegal to consume, the best advice I can give is to use moderation. Bus drivers are subject to random alcohol and drug testing, so if you're concerned about it showing up, then the rule of thumb is not to do it.
Each job has its selection of characters. Most of the time, a majority of the behavior problems I experience comes from the kids, but we do have adults who can be quite "special" in their behavior as well. I believe that the reason why adults tend to be better behaved is because they actually WANT to ride the bus, or HAVE to ride the bus to get to work, the grocery store, the movies, wherever.
Federal law states that a school bus can go no faster than 40 mph on route and up to 55 mph on highways. Many school buses are governed down so they cannot go faster than a certain speed. In my district, the buses WERE governed to 65 mph, but some drivers were breaking the speed limit, so we were then governed down to between 55 and 60 mph. Other districts do not govern their school buses down. If you see a bus driver acting reckless by speeding faster than 70 mph on a highway, feel free to call it in and report them.
Well, things like power windows are not practical because the kids would be forever playing with them, and we don't need any more buttons to deal with. A lot of the newer buses are equipped with power mirrors, mirror defoggers/defrosters, air ride seats, and air conditioning. One thing that I would like to see is better running/back up lights on the exterior of the bus for when we have to do turn around's in the dark. Another thing that I would like to see in addition to the air ride seats, is more cushioning/comfort in the drivers seats since we are often on the road for very long hours. In an ideal world, every bus would have an aide on it to monitor and help defuse behavior problems as well, but funding is just not available.
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I think you ought to be allowed to use the bathroom should you need it, however if you are leaving students unattended on your bus, I can see your boss' problem with you using the bathroom. If it is simply a matter of you pulling the bus over in a public area at a gas station, your boss may be wanting to avoid phone calls from the "concerned public" of buses parking in places where they shouldn't. After all, the county public pays your salary right? (That was a bit of sarcasm.) One thing your boss may be concerned about is you getting students to school on time. If you only need 5 minutes to use the restroom, simply back your route up by 5 minutes so that you budget that "bathroom time" into your route.
Well, I think part of the reason they do not let you tie your wheelchair down yourself is because the driver/aide must be sure that the wheelchair is adequately secured in the bus. If the bus were to get into an accident and you were hurt because your wheelchair was not tied down properly by you, it can be a liability to the district. Also, if you are riding the bus as a passenger, the driver is still having the full responsibility of everyone on their bus.
That is a good question. I actually had to look up the answer myself as I had not remembered what they said in training class. The white top of a school bus is reportedly a measure enacted to help cool the school bus. We do not have air conditioning on buses in my district, and the white tops supposedly keep the heat down inside the bus. Some newer models have tinted windows which also try to keep the heat from entering the bus. Another reason there are white tops, and strobe lights on the top of buses, is to assist with visibility from the air and on the ground.
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