Maria M. Silva has been in the driver’s seat for more than 28 years and has never had a crash.
“I have been accident-free for the entire 28 years. I’ve had some close calls but never came in contact with another vehicle,” said Silva.
She has worked the past six years for Dynamic Tours & Transportation in Orlando, Florida, and over her career has also driven for Dufour Tours, Laidlaw and Mears Transportation.
Silva began her career as a school bus driver in Waterbury, Connecticut. After six months of driving, she became a dispatcher manager, a position she held for 14 years. When she moved to Orlando in 2015, she decided to go back on the road and start driving charter buses.
“My passion in transportation came from my father’s trucking business. He used to take my brother and me on the road, and he passed his passion to us,” said Silva.
One way Silva promotes the industry is on social media. She is the administrator of the Facebook group Motorcoach Operators Nationwide.
Bus & Motorcoach News caught up with Silva 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?
My biggest tip was $2,600 from a group that I was with from Miami to Las Vegas for 14 days. I did get some great tips while doing Canadian tours with Korean groups.
What’s the strangest or most bizarre group you’ve driven?
The one group that was memorable was an Indian group that I took to a park. They had brought so much food onto the bus, including pots and pans. We sat at a park, and the ladies made dinner while the guys chatted, and then we went home.
What’s your go-to phrase?
It’s not the destination, it’s the ride.
How did you become a driver?
I became a driver after my job as a supervisor for an auto supplier for Ford moved to Mexico. My neighbor was a driver and he always invited me to drive with him, but I kept turning him down until one day I made a bet with him that I would get my CDL. It was only a bet, but here I am.
What were your previous careers?
I always wanted to be a nurse or flight attendant. My previous job was as a supervisor for an automotive parts supplier.
How many miles or states have you driven by bus?
I have been to every U.S. state except Alaska and Hawaii. I also have done many tours in Canada. I have probably driven about a half-million miles, if not more.
What’s your favorite and/or least favorite destination and why?
My favorite destination is the Northeast in the fall, and my least favorite is the Northwest.
The worst place to visit Death Valley … it’s just the name.
What’s your favorite bus feature?
I love the luggage space and all the features that come with it.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
Passengers always say to me, “Do you know where our driver is?” Although I’m a woman and only 5 feet tall, I still can reach the pedals. Once we start driving and we stop, that’s when all the compliments come in. “Wow, you drive really well. We want you next time.” I have had so many requests that I can’t remember all of them. Drivers within the company would get mad because I had some good charters.
What’s your funniest travel story?
I don’t have one.
What’s your best piece of advice for a newbie?
Take your time and always ask questions. We are not all perfect. Enjoy the view and treat everyone on your bus like you would want to be treated.
What’s your career highlight?
Always reach for the sky. If your passion is driving then go for it. Never say never. Anyone can you anything in life as long as you dedicate yourself to the passion.
What question should we have asked and what’s your answer?
Q: How did you survive the pandemic?
A: The pandemic has changed so many of us but, for me, it’s been a blessing. I have not stopped working. After charters came to a stop, I decided to go into the drive-away business. Thank you to Javon Canady for showing me the ropes. To this day, he has inspired so many bus drivers, reminding them that it’s not the end of the world, that we will be all right. I have been enjoying the trucking life. I did return to the charter business after being away for almost a year. Now I’m doing charters part time.
Read more From the driver’s seat columns.
If you are a motorcoach driver and would like to be featured in From the driver’s seat, contact Shandra Martinez at email@example.com.