Don’t let a passing moron decide what’s safe for your motorcoach

Deadheading a Scenicruiser through Detroit on I75, I spotted a GBB (Great Big Busline) 4107 on the shoulder. Long on ego (and short on wisdom), I pulled up behind him and offered help. 

A parking brake chamber on the drive axle had locked tight, and the bus wouldn’t budge. Rolling under the bus with a wrench, I loosened the bolts holding the pot to the bracket. It slid forward and released the brake on that wheel. 

Striking a manly pose, I told the driver he’d make it to the Detroit terminal if he drove carefully, because three-fourths of his braking system still worked. 

Silly goose. Off he went. 

A screeching halt

A few miles up the road, I passed a lonely brake chamber, and a bit farther on was the 4107 stuck in the travel lane. He’d hit a bump, the body lifted, the chamber shifted farther along the shaft, and the descending body chopped it off. It dragged until the air hose holding it parted, setting the remaining parking brake, and bringing him to a screeching halt.

Figuring this out as I roared by, there seemed no reason to stop, because I’d done enough damage for one day. I waved.

Best guess is that the GBB driver’s boss, responding to his excuse, explained to him that he was nuts trusting a passing moron. He ultimately was responsible for the mechanical condition of his coach.

Don’t drive ‘scared’

A driver tragically recently died (along with 17 passengers) in an accident. The cause is still being investigated, but his relative said he was “scared to drive”  that vehicle. Then why did he?

Without getting into the details of this crash, it’s important to understand that just like an airline pilot or a ship’s captain, a professional driver is ultimately accountable for the machine he or she is operating. If it’s not safe, don’t take it out. 

We’re not talking about rejecting a coach because a reading light is punk, but it’s important for drivers to understand that, once you wheel a bus out of the shop, that baby is yours. If a known defect causes (or exacerbates) an accident, blaming the mechanic or management will NOT get you off the hook.  

If you’re hurtling down the highway and a parking brake arbitrarily locks up, it’s not your fault … unless you let a moron (in a manly pose) decide what’s safe for YOUR vehicle. 

When your bus poops out mid-trip, headquarters can remotely troubleshoot and advise, but you’re the one who is responsible for deciding if it’s safe to continue. Have an accident, and they may be held partially accountable, but you’ll be the focus, because the driver is always where the buck (rightfully) stops. If it isn’t safe, don’t risk passengers’ lives — or yours. 

‘Full-tilt boogie’

It was 9:55 on a stormy night in Custer, Montana. In 5 minutes, the diner would close — and along with it, access to the only telephone for a zillion miles. The electrical system on the old Scenic refused to charge, and my buddy on the phone at the garage in Colorado said, “Jam a matchbook in the ‘810 relay. The alternator will ‘full-tilt boogie.’ Don’t forget to take it out when you stop.”

All this with no idea of what had caused the crisis. Later, we found that the problem was a dead short in a big, unprotected wire. Talk about a fire hazard! Jamming the relay had bypassed the safety systems. My pal was willing to risk … me.

Striking a manly pose, I did what I was told, jammed the ‘810 and motored on through the night. 

Don’t do as I do, do as I say.


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