David is a bus driver for First Leeds. His City Team is responsible for 5 routes, including the number 14 through Bramley, and his day starts and finishes at the Bramley depot.
David gave up a career in teaching, first to drive delivery vans then moved on to buses about two years ago. He likes the sense of independence. “You pretty much feel your own boss as long as you’re following all the rules and keeping the customers happy.”
David, and the other drivers, are very aware that many older people rely on buses for mobility and independence – for shopping, getting to appointments and getting out and about.
“You pretty much feel your own boss as long as you’re following all the rules and keeping the customers happy.”
David always tries to make sure older people have a good experience on his bus. All drivers expect the journey to take a bit longer after 9.30, when older people can use their passes. David feels he then has a change of mindset, to make sure the journey is as smooth and comfortable as possible.
He aims to be friendly and welcoming, speak clearly and have good eye contact. He’s also attentive to older people taking a seat before driving off. Some people have a problem using their Metro Pass: David says you just need to put it against the bottom part of the screen and hold it still – you should only need to do this once.
David feels it’s better if older people don’t go upstairs, but use a seat close to the exit – it’s safer, and easier for the driver to see when they’re ready. Occasionally, David says, he may need to drive off when someone is still approaching a bus stop, and knows this is frustrating. He’d like people to understand that he will only do this when it is a frequent service, and they are already running late.
For David the main downside of the job is the shift patterns. There are three different types of day: ‘early’ (5.00am-3.00pm), which also has to include a full vehicle check before setting off; ‘middle’ (9.00am-7.00pm), and ‘late’ (2.00pm-12.00pm). The schedulers try to give drivers a reasonable work-life balance, while making the most efficient use of the buses, which are in use for about 19 out of every 24 hours. He may do a mixture of all three shift types within a week, so it’s difficult to have a regular social life.
When he does get spare time, David likes doing doing the Roundhay Park Run if he’s free on a Saturday morning. He also regularly cycles to and from work to keep fit. He plays the tin whistle with friends.
David supports, his elderly mother, who lives in London, with information and advice when he can, as she goes through health problems. So he has a good understanding of what many older people are going through, and how families try to support them.
David is just one of about 300 drivers working out of Bramley depot, with another 300 or so based at Hunslet. Say hello to him if you find yourself on his bus.