Hello, I am Frazer Bridges and I am one of the many Professional Coach Drivers employed by Pegasus Coaches. A blog about a day in my life is not the easiest of tasks, as very few days are the same. The variation is brought about because of the different types of work we all do and each group of passengers are unlike to the last group. This calls for flexibility, understanding and sometimes just patience. Politeness and a good appearance are essential to give passengers confidence in my professionalism. Although each day differs, the start of each day is much the same. Whether away on tour or beginning a job from the yard, a check of the vehicle must be carried out in the interest of safety.
First things first, inspection
First, I insert my electronic Tachograph card and ensure it displays the ‘other work’ symbol, as I now must carry out a 15-minute inspection of the coach. I examine things like the tyres, body condition, seat belts for compliance, lights etc. well I could go on and on, but I’m sure you get the idea. When I’m happy all is well I fill out my chequebook (not the money one) and the coach is now ready for a day or nights work.
A day trip, which could be to almost anywhere, would involve reading the work ticket for that day, then heading off at the correct time to pick up the passengers. Understandably groups do not like being picked up an hour late, particularly if they are on a tight timetable, therefore, punctuality is good for business. We then spend a fun day out which could be going to a theme park, a day trip to London, a concert, the zoo, it could be anywhere before heading home at a predetermined time. Once our wayfarers have been safely dropped off, now comes the exciting part of the day. Back to the depot/yard to clean the coach. All drivers love this part of the day. Out with the brushes, brooms, mops and away we go to ensure the coach is clean and ready for use the next day. Oh Frazer, don’t forget the coach might need fuel as well, so I fill up with diesel on my way back. Day done, it’s home to the wife and “you’re late”. All part of a good day.
Tour work is very different, passengers are transported to anywhere within the vast areas of Europe, Scandinavia or even somewhere like Russia. These trips could be away for one day or two weeks, depending on the group’s daily plan or ‘itinerary’. Longer trips will usually be what we call ‘double manned’, which means you will have two drivers. The reason for this is that under the Driving regulations two drivers can go a lot further than one driver can on their own.
If I’m doing a tour to, let’s say ’Italy’, I will drive to Dover Port (ferry crossing) or Folkestone (Eurotunnel) by car during the previous day. This allows myself and the other driver to be fully rested, ready for the long trip the next day. I should explain that for longer tours I do not pick up the group, this is done by a “feeder” driver, who will go to the pick-up point and collect our travellers. Also, he or she must load all the luggage and if it’s at 3am, this is not a lot of fun. Mind you now I would be fast asleep, so why am I boring you with these minor details. At the port, at an agreed time we meet the coach, change drivers and are also introduced to the Group Leaders. Normally the “feeder” driver will have told them plenty about their new drivers, so sometimes I can be met with some jovial remark. This is a good start, I think?? We then drive onto the ferry/train, grab some dinner (ferry only) and then wait for the boat/train to arrive at the foreign port and the adventure to begin.
Teamwork for long distances
The drive to our destination can be a long one, anything up to 20 hours, so you can see why rest before the trip is so important. On these elongated drives, it is very important that the two drivers work as a team, as they must share the driving and in tight areas may have to get out and marshal the other driver to safeguard the passengers and the vehicle. Taking the vehicle home with bumps, scrapes and dents does not make the Boss happy!!
Although there is a toilet on board, stops during the journey are essential, not only for the drivers to change over but for our group to use the service’s toilet. Once at our destination, a suitable place is found to park and offload the coach. At this stage, we are all glad to get there, but the coach must still be unloaded. Once done and the passengers have identified their luggage, they go to collect their room keys. Normally I’ll have a quick clean of the inside of the coach as rubbish seems to appear and accumulate from nowhere on the journey. Then for us drivers, it's rest, rest, rest.
What happens over the next few days will be decided by the group’s itinerary. On a ski trip, for example, the passengers will have their skis in the luggage hold, and so they come to the coach with most of their ski gear already on. Ski boots are the exception as these can only be put on at the slopes, as a coach full of snow is no fun, particularly for the carpets!! Once at the slopes, the skiers disappear and us drivers are left to await their return in the late afternoon. Now is a chance to give the coach a proper clean and if we’re lucky we will have free lift passes to go to the top of the mountain and maybe, a meal voucher. How lucky we are. On our way to our vouchered meal, taking the ski lift to the top can be one of the highlights of the trip. Some of the views are stunning and these are the times when one thinks “this old job is not so bad.” Once our skiers return the skis and boots are loaded away, we drive to the accommodation for an evening meal and chill time before bed.
On ski trips, most days follow the pattern I’ve already described. However, Spring and summer tours are normally quite different. These tours can be straightforward tourist sightseeing, sports or music tours or maybe a mixture of them all. Of course, the biggest difference is the weather is now hot, so don't forget your sunscreen. Not all drivers like these tours as the heat can be overwhelming, but me, I love the warmth.
On a musical tour, some of the day might be spent sightseeing and then setting up, at a predestined town, all the musical paraphernalia. The shows are often free for everyone and are usually well attended and appreciated by the crowd. Some of the passengers are good musicians and inspire others in the band to give their very best. I’m not sure I would have the courage to perform in front of an unknown foreign crowd, however as I cannot play a note on a well-tuned piano, standing performing to a crowd was never a problem for me!
Other tours I’ve driven on have been sports tournaments or extra training for a particular sport. If there is a game to be watched, then I’ll go along and support my passengers. Win or lose, it's great experience for the players and memories to hang onto for a lifetime. Some of the sightseeing is also wonderful, I mean, who in their right mind would turn down a day trip with their passengers to let’s say Venice. On non-driving days, I do not always go with the group, so this gives me plenty of time to wander off on my own to enjoy these new exciting places.
The world is your oyster
In summary, for a Coach Driver, long hours are normal, staying away from home is part of the job and having a loving, understanding partner essential. I enjoy this type of work so much and being paid to go and see so many wonderful places and sights with lovely people cannot be bad, can it??