After being furloughed for much of the pandemic, driver Darren Reever has been back on the road since fall 2021, driving entertainer coaches carrying tour bands or crews for touring Broadway shows such as “Waitress” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”
Reever prefers driving entertainers because he is able to take summers off.
“I mostly drive for the Broadway plays, which don’t really tour into the summer,” said Reever, who works for Clarion Coach based in Clarion, Pennsylvania — a division of NiteTrain Coach. Bands traditionally tour during the summertime, when stadiums are available between sports seasons. “Metal bands will tour in the winter, and I’ve definitely had years of fun with those guys,” Reever said.
But there’s a difference between Broadway crews and heavy metal bands, Reever explained: “Crews are essentially inside the theater working all day. With the metal bands, the bus is their hotel, so they’re in it a lot. It basically comes down to a wear-and-tear issue. You’re in there 12 hours a day, you’re going to leave fingerprints.”
Reever’s duties go beyond driving.
“I have to maintain the bus. There’s the engine, a generator and six air conditioners. I have to maintain those systems and clean the bus, the exterior and the interior. I also have to find ways to spend the client’s money wisely, as far as where to get fuel when to get fuel. There’s a lot to the job.”
Reever spoke to Bus & Motorcoach News about why he loves driving a motorcoach, his career highs and lows, and his passion for the business.
What’s the biggest tip you received and the story behind it?
I have a story about a tip received by a guy that I trained. He drove entertainers doing Broadway tours. He was doing a spot move, so he picked the group up in Philadelphia to drive them to Boston. They were thirsty and wanted to get something to drink, so he drove them to a gas station where they could get their drinks. They couldn’t get everything that they wanted, so he took them to another gas station. And then they were hungry, so he took them to a grocery store. Then he did the rather short drive up to Boston. When he got up there, they gave him an envelope with $600 in it, the same amount as his wages for the trip. Initially, he thought it was a mistake, but they told him it was the tip for making the trip so good.
I’ve made some tips, but I honestly feel like I get paid enough just in the daily wage. I think I make a lot more than just about everybody that rides on my bus. I wish they would keep their money and not give me tips. I think it’s it’s important that that drivers get adequately compensated for what we do because we do a lot. And I think the structure that has the driver looking forward to a tip and needing it is the wrong structure. I act like everybody is Taylor Swift on my bus, and I try and give the best service. That’s kind of what it’s about, and attitude pays off with more work in the future.
What’s the strangest or most bizarre group you’ve driven?
The heavy metal band GWAR is known for wearing these crazy costumes. They have theatrical blood cannons and stuff like that. On the bus, they were awesome. They just listened to jazz. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is whatever sort of persona they project on stage, they’re almost always the opposite of that offstage. The metal guys are really laid back and relaxed. It’s the American Pie wholesome people where the things get wild. But I don’t tell the stories where you can identify people. Discretion is a big part of what I do.
What’s your go-to phrase?
It’s show business, not show friends. I want to be friendly with the clients, but there’s a job to do, and I just kind of stick to the job.
How did you become a driver?
I just knew a guy who knew a guy. This was an entertainment industry. It relies a lot on having the personality first, and then the driving and bus maintenance is almost secondary. You have to be personable, but you can train everything else. You can’t train people to be nice. I do a lot of hiring for my company so I look for a person who can deal with adversity, and keep a smile on their face and let something go when someone’s being a jerk to them. They just need to stay focused on the task, which is getting down the road safe.
How did you start in the industry?
I started driving at a college. They had a hotel shuttle bus for about 30 passengers so I got a Class C CDL. I had a girlfriend who lived in Germany, so I needed a job that would help me to earn enough to buy a plane ticket. I went to a truck driving school and started driving a truck. By then, I had a P endorsement (to carry 16 passengers or more) and a Class A (which allows the driver to operate any vehicle with a semitrailer or a trailer with two or more axles). That’s when my friend who knew a friend turned me on to the entertainment coach job because I could drive a bus with the trailer on the back. You had to have at least B, but I had A so I could drive a 15,000-pound trailer. I find driving an entertainer more satisfying than trucking. There’s more to keep up with the truck. I like the maintenance. I like keeping up with systems and fixing things. There’s a lot of downtime on the job that I spend cleaning and fixing things. It saves you a breakdown on the side of the road. That’s the worst. I’m mostly self-taught. When I’m sitting at a hotel, I’m reading a manual or watching videos about coaches. If I had a problem that I thought something was going break, I’ll come up with a plan to get that part because that’s 90% of the issue. You need to do your pre-trip and your post-trip inspections to find the problem before the bus breaks down.
What are your previous careers?
I worked in a reform school. I was in the Army for a couple of years as a cook, but I never did any cooking; I drove and fixed trucks and did mechanical stuff. I’ve done a little bit of everything. I have even shoveled rabbit manure at farms.
How many miles or states have you driven in a bus?
I’ve driven in every single state in the contiguous United States, all five of the southern provinces of Canada and even a little bit of Mexico.
What’s your favorite or least favorite destination and why?
My least favorite is downtown Philadelphia or other historic towns because the streets are narrow in these old colonial cities. Boston is the same way, and so is the southern tip of Manhattan. They are places you can get into trouble fast on a bus.
What’s your favorite bus feature?
Lifting the tags, when the rear axle will actually lift up the tires off the ground. This can be helpful in hotel parking lots to help shorten the turning radius.
What’s the best compliment you have received?
I was driving a band on a six-hour drive to the next city. After I parked, one of the guys came out from the bunks and asked me when we were leaving. He was shocked when I told him we had arrived. The fact that I could do a six-hour drive and the passengers didn’t even wake up is the biggest compliment. The coach is their hotel, so they have to get sleep while I’m doing my job of moving them from place to place.
What’s your best piece of advice for a newbie?
Listen to people who have been doing it for a while and learn how to judge other people’s character to determine whether you should really pay attention to what that person is telling you. A lot of people can lead you down the wrong road.
What’s your career highlight?
I was a production bus driver on the Vans Warped Tour for its final six years. It was basically a large music festival. We would essentially be a small town, then move down the road every night, probably about 3,000 people. I was the lead production driver for two of the tour’s last three years. I was in charge of anywhere between 15 to 20 other buses on the production side, as far as the logistics. I had to make sure they’re fixed and getting parked and make sure everybody gets there.
Is there a question we should have asked you?
Q: What’s the worst part of your job?
A: You’re away from home for months at a time. You give up everything, essentially, to work on the road, and that’s hard. When those you’re working with don’t realize that sacrifice, you can feel alienated quickly. It happens all the time. They just see you show up. Often you are on a different schedule than the band. When I’m coming to work and having coffee, they’re having their last-call beer and vice versa, so you’re often just kind of out of sync with the rest of what’s going on on the tour. That can be really lonely.
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