By Warren Heggarty
Right now in Sydney, there are recruitment campaigns to try to get more bus drivers. You can tell the transport companies are having trouble getting enough drivers because their advertising is trying to SELL the very idea of driving a bus, making it look a little more glamorous than perhaps you thought it was!
Take Transdev’s Be a Journeymaker campaign. Hannah is not your typical bus driver. She used to be in retail. But now she says ‘I am a journeymaker.’ A ‘depot lead driver’ to be precise, which implies she has had some career progression beyond the position of a mere bus driver.
‘At Transdev,’ the advertising says, ‘we believe public transport plays an important part in how a city comes to life. Our day to day work influences our families, friends and future generations where they live, work and play.’
Transdev CEO Rene Lalande says ‘”Journey Makers are people who make trips memorable. They share their spirit, personality and enthusiasm with everyone they encounter,”If that is what the new breed of bus driver is all about, it makes you want to top up your Opal card and make journey, or better still, check the local bus company for job vacancies.
“Do you want a new job?” asks State Transit, the government bus company. “Paid training? $70k starting salary? State Transit is hiring bus drivers.”
So even the government is trying to sell the idea of being a bus driver.
Why would people NOT want to be a bus driver? One of the reasons is stress. That is, at least on inner city runs you have the problem of traffic snarls plus a million things going on at once. On a bus, the Driver is both front desk receptionist, back room functionary, mechanic, cleaner and CEO. You’re it.
On the other hand, with better communications systems these days, drivers have better back up than previous generations. Still, when it’s a rainy day (that’s every 2.5 days on average in coastal Sydney) and the passengers are all bad tempered, wet and out of credit on their Opal cards, it can be a challenge. And when you’re late, don’t worry they’ll let you know about it!
A more serious problem with the profession is safety on certain runs in certain areas. I remember a passenger randomly hit me on the back of the head. The driver was alerted and confronted the pugnacious commuter, who denied it. ‘He did it!’ the other passengers said in unison. When ordered off the bus, he spat on the driver. It could have been worse, but he knew he was outnumbered.
What bus drivers are responsible for
Keeping the network moving by reporting incidents and traffic delays (this is part of the communications ‘backup’ mentioned above)
Delivering great customer service (when my mother had dementia, the local Bankstown bus drivers would always take her to her stop when she got lost)
Getting our customers to their destination safely and on time.
Helping customers to use the Opal ticketing system. Many bus passengers are old people who have had to give up driving. It is hard for younger people to understand how unnatural or even suspicious modern technology is to some elderly people who prefer cash and paper tickets.
What you need for the job
State Transit outlines the following essential requirements for driving the blue buses.
A: You need to be a permanent resident of Australia or citizen of Australia or New Zealand
B: You need to have held an unrestricted Australian Driver’s Licence for the last 12 months
C: It goes without saying you should have a good driving history. You will really need to enjoy driving and people.
D: You must be willing to work all the shifts required of the position. Buses are not 9 to 5.
Buses are vital in helping people overcome isolation in suburbia
E A requirement which you might consider a little unusual is that you must maintain a weight below 130kgs and
F: You need to have a standing reach of at least 210cm.
G: You’ll need to get clearance from a medical practitioner to obtain a bus driver authority card. This authority allows you to drive a public passenger vehicle.
H: You also need to obtain a Working with Children Check clearance, although State Transit will help you out with this.
One of the advantages of working in public transport is that it is big and likely to get bigger. That means once you are in the door, a competent employee can have a wide range of opportunities to pursue.
Transdev, for example, boasts a ‘global network of 83,000 colleagues in 19 countries.’ And the company is growing.
“To support this growth we look to the dedication, pride and passion of our people, and the camaraderie of our teams on the ground. In return we offer diverse career experiences in an evolving industry that’s moving faster than ever before.”
Remember with an ageing population, there will be more and more elderly people, many of whom have given up driving -or can’t afford a private car. To them, the local bus driver is a lifeline!