Jamie Wiese began his commercial driver career in 1986, at 18, when he was trained to drive a school bus by Dick Plahn from Willmar Bus Service in Willmar, Minnesota. Since then, he has driven school buses off and on over the years while doing other jobs. With 13 years as a motorcoach driver, Wiese will mark his 10th anniversary in October driving for Ottertail Minn-Dakota Coaches.
Bus & Motorcoach News caught up with Weise to talk to him 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?
The best tip I receive is always the smiles and laughter before, during and after a trip. The more people I meet, the more fun I have.
What’s the strangest or most bizarre group you’ve driven?
All groups have been great. I really cannot recall any strange or bizarre group, but my most memorable is taking a robotics team from Greenbush, Minnesota, and being able to go in the pits and see all these robotics teams. It’s amazing what these kids can do. I am an electronics enthusiast, and love watching and learning how they make everything work to achieve the goals that are required. Just an amazing group of adults and kids. I hope someday get to drive for them again.
What’s your go-to phrase?
I am a pretty calm person and very little surprises me or phases me. If someone comes up and informs me someone spilled or got sick and lost their cookies, or they are late or the itinerary is changing, and then apologizes for it happening, my response is “It’s OK, it’s not an issue” and “It is what it is.”
How did you become a driver?
I always wanted to become a motorcoach driver. However, in 1986, you had to be 21 and have three years of experience before anyone would hire you, so I went and did other jobs while driving a school bus when I could.
About 13 years ago, I called Minn-Dakota Coaches for a job and was told drivers still needed three years of experience. At the time, I had no idea how I would accomplish this. Around 2008, a gentleman approached me from Key Ministries and asked if I would like to drive a trip to Florida. I agreed and got my three years of experience through them. I then called Minn-Dakota Coaches and informed them I had my three years, and the rest is history.
What were your previous careers?
I previously worked as a Schwan’s route driver, Wonder Bread route driver, Brownberry (bread) route driver, Dish Network satellite installer, produce manager, Certified Nursing Assistant, and a Pizza Hut cook and dishwasher.
How many miles or states have you driven a bus?
I have driven in every state except Alaska and Hawaii for a total of 700,000 miles and counting.
What’s your favorite and/or least favorite destination and why?
My favorite destination is Plymouth, Massachusetts, because it’s home to the famed Lobster Hut — yum. My least favorite destination is Boston because there is very little bus parking.
From your perspective in the driver’s seat, what’s your favorite bus feature?
My favorite bus feature is the new load lights on the 2020 Prevost. The load lights are on the top of the bus and shine down on the luggage that is outside the bus when loading and unloading. Plus the lights come on when the left or right turn signal is on, so you can see down the full length of the bus when it’s dark.
From your perspective in the driver’s seat, what’s your favorite bus to drive?
I love to drive Prevost because it feels like you’re in a luxury car, very comfortable. The mirrors are set low so there are fewer blind spots, so you can see both directions without the mirrors blocking your view.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
The best compliment received is when everyone claps after completing a tight turn they don’t think you can make.
What’s your funniest travel story?
My funniest story is when we had bus issues in New York City. A high-pressure hose busted and the bus needed to be towed. From using the subway to taxis and everything else in between, we were able to get the group to all of their activities and back to the hotel in New Jersey with no bus. The group did not miss a thing they had scheduled, and the bus was repaired for the following day.
What’s your best piece of advice for a newbie?
Always ask the veteran drivers. They are very willing to help, and have extensive knowledge of many areas and tips that will help your trip go smoothly.
What’s your career highlight?
My career highlight would be driving down the West Coast, through Washington, Oregon and California.
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