How to Drive a Bus

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Being able to drive a bus is a common childhood fantasy, along with becoming an airline pilot. The driver is the one in charge, the one on who all the other passengers depend. Being able to drive a bus, while a little tricky, is easier than it seems.

  • While the bus is at a full stop, push in the clutch fully and then shift the manual gear selector into first gear. Let the clutch out slowly, without pressing down on the accelerator. Buses use diesel engines that can generate a lot of power and they won't stall the same way a car does if the driver doesn't press down on the accelerator while shifting into first.

  • Shift the bus out of first gear by pressing down on the clutch while taking your foot off the accelerator and putting the stick shift into neutral. Then let the clutch out. This will slow down the engine side of the gearbox, which is extremely important in order to avoid damaging the transmission and having the bus not shift into gear at all.

  • Engage the bus in second gear by pushing in the clutch and shifting the gear selector into second. Then let out the clutch and press down on the accelerator. If you have done this right the bus will shift into a higher gear without any problems.

  • Shift into third gear by repeating the steps from shifting from first into second gear, although the time required to wait for the engine speed to match the speed of the tires will be slightly shorter. This is an aspect of driving a bus that can only be learned by doing, preferably with a teacher on hand, much like learning to drive an ordinary stick shift.

  • Follow the recommended speeds for different gears. Use first gear until the bus reaches about 15 mph and then stay in second gear until the bus reaches 30 mph. Third gear is used after that until the bus hits 40 mph, while fourth gear is used until the bus is going 55 mph and fifth gear is used until the bus hits 70 mph.

  • Down shift by pushing in the clutch, and then shifting into neutral. Wait until the engine speed has slowed into the recommended speed range for the appropriate gear and then shift into gear, taking care to make sure the engine speed is the same as the tire speed.

Tips & Warnings

  • You will need a commercial driver's license in order to drive a bus legally. Although there are Federal guidelines, each state also establishes its own requirements for the position.
  • Avoid pumping the air brakes on the bus. This will drain the air tanks on the brakes and could leave the bus unable to stop later on.
  • Keep the bus close to the center line while driving. If the highway is a four-lane, keep to the slow lane, and give the cars in the other lanes plenty of room to maneuver.
  • Go slow when turning corners. A bus can roll easily if it corners too fast and given its lack of seat belts, rolling the bus can be dangerous for the passengers, not to mention the driver.
  • Use the bus's mirrors. The bus has a lot of blind spots, so check the mirrors often in order to compensate.
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