Mandy Zimmerman has been in the driver’s seat for nearly 23 years. Much of that time, she has driven school buses and motorcoaches for Pennsvlania operators. She thought her career was going to take her to Alaska before the pandemic hit, but decided to stay closer to home. In February, Affordable Limousine in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recruited to join their team.
The daughter of a truck driver, Zimmerman says she was destined for a career that put her behind the wheel. Her driving career began when she became a school bus driver because she could bring her young son along on her runs.
Bus & Motorcoach News caught up with Zimmerman to talk to her about why she loves driving a motorcoach, her career highs and lows, and her passion for the business.
What’s the biggest tip you received and the story behind it?
The biggest tip I received in one day was $600 for a wedding I drove for. The bride and groom originally gave me $300 and, when I took them back that night, they said that all of the guests were so pleased with their driver. The bride handed me an additional amount of money, thanked me and gave me a hug. She said she was very happy to hear that everyone was pleased with their smooth ride and how accommodating I was.
What’s the strangest or most bizarre group you’ve driven?
I haven’t really had any strange or bizarre groups, but I recently had an incident with a language barrier. My group included guests for a wedding and all of them spoke Spanish, and I am not bilingual in any sense. Thankfully, one of the guests spoke some English and translated for me.
What’s your go-to phrase?
Have fun and enjoy the ride.
How did you become a driver?
I have always had a love for driving. My mom always said it is in my blood because my daddy was a truck driver. When I had my son 23 years ago, child care was too expensive where I lived, and I applied to become a school bus driver because I could take him along. It worked out great and things just grew from that point.
What were your previous careers?
I have previously worked as a medical secretary, school bus driver and career adviser.
How many miles or states have you driven a bus?
I have driven countless miles and have driven in or through 23 states.
What’s your favorite and/or least favorite destination and why?
My favorite destination is the mountain areas in the fall. It is my favorite season. My least favorite is the big cities because parking is challenging enough on a day-to-day basis. When you get to the larger cities, there are no designated spots for motorcoaches.
What’s your favorite bus feature?
My favorite bus feature is the small mirror that shows vehicles along the sides of our bus. The blind spot on a motorcoach is greater, and this mirror helps us to see small vehicles that are beside us that we may not see in the larger mirror.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
I get consistent compliments on my driving skills. Sometimes, it seems that driving is a man’s industry, and I find that most people are shocked at how I handle the bus. I have been told several times that I have done exceptionally well and that they are impressed.
What’s your funniest travel story?
I had a bachelorette party on a winery tour, and they were a lot of fun. When we got to the destination, a country song was on and I was speaking with one of the bridesmaids at the time about country line dancing. I told her that I remembered the dance we did to this particular song, and she asked if I could teach her. Well, I ended up teaching the entire group this line dance while in the parking lot. They absolutely loved it, and we all giggled and laughed.
What’s your best piece of advice for a newbie?
My best advice is to trust your instincts and be confident in your skills. Sometimes, we get into situations that are not always pleasant, and you have to rely on these two things to make sound judgments. You may have to change directions, go out of your way or do something that may make the customer upset but, in the long run, they will appreciate the decision you made.
What’s your career highlight?
Most recently, I got a certificate as a Master Motorcoach Operator. I am very proud of this accomplishment.
What question should we have asked and what’s your answer?
Q: What is one of the biggest challenges and what can be done to improve it?
A: Again, this is parking in cities. I would like to see cities create parking areas strictly for motorcoaches. I realize some do not have the space for this, but it would be great if they would even open a section at one of the stadiums or arenas to accommodate us. Motorcoach companies bring in a great deal of revenue for these places, and it would be nice to see them do a little more.
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