Ryan Maloney, 27, has enjoyed the view from the driver’s seat for about 4 years. He began driving a bus while a student at Indiana University. Less than two years later, he transitioned to Miller Transportation in Indianapolis.
During his time with Miller, he has largely driven collegiate and professional athletic teams, along with the occasional line run and various charter groups.
Bus & Motorcoach News caught up with Maloney 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?
I won’t disclose the amount, but it was a very generous collection from the passengers on a successful historical-area multi-day charter. What made it even better was the fact that it was given to me by each of the passengers, along with a personal note from each of them, thanking me for going above and beyond.
The strangest or most bizarre group you’ve driven?
I took an FFA chapter to a small farm west of Indianapolis during the national convention and had to do a nearly 20-point turn on a muddy farm track, having to move quickly to keep the drive axle from sinking.
What’s your go-to phrase?
Service with a smile. I started working in customer service when I was 14 years old. One thing has been true, across the board at every job I’ve had, is this: You get what you give, even with the more “difficult” customers. If you present yourself with professionalism, are accommodating and, most of all, courteous with your passengers, you’re golden.
How did you become a driver?
I was attending Indiana University and was working in an advising office as the office assistant. One day, I was riding the campus bus to class and noticed that there was a flyer onboard advertising driving positions, with paid CDL training included, for $3 more an hour than I was making. I had to jump at it.
What were your previous careers?
As I briefly mentioned, I’ve been working in customer service for almost half my life. I started out at a video rental store that doubled as a postal contract station. From there, I went into various administrative assistant roles at my community college. In order to save up to transfer to IU, I worked at a 4-star casino resort in Reno (my hometown) as a hotel front desk representative.
How many miles or states have you driven a bus?
Honestly couldn’t tell you the miles. At my peak, I was on the road for 25 or more days a month, and I’ve driven coaches for Miller across the entire Midwest, along with North Dakota, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia and Florida. Without driving coaches, I’d probably never have seen some of these states.
What are your favorite and least favorite destinations and why?
Favorite is Chicago. I know it’s often a motorcoach operator’s worst nightmare, but I’ve come to love it for its rich local history and architecture.
Least favorite would have to be the greater Atlanta area. Every time I’m there, I always seem to get stuck in stop-and-go traffic.
From the driver’s seat perspective, what’s your favorite bus feature?
Ask anyone, I’ll drive anything so long as it’s got a good air-ride seat! At 6-foot-8, I can’t be riding on the floor with my knees around my ears for eight hours.
The best compliment you’ve received?
A coordinator for a team called me ’Mater, like the tow truck from Disney’s Cars, after I backed up an extremely long ramp to a loading dock at an arena without having to stop to reposition. I asked why, and they said (with an admirable Larry the Cable Guy impression) “cause you’re the world’s best backwards driver!”
What’s your funniest travel story?
A tour director and I had a good laugh during downtime on a charter about a pack of sugar-free butterscotch candy she bought by accident, and how there was a warning label that stated eating too many could have a laxative effect. We decided then and there that if one of the passengers was having a bathroom emergency, she’d say “butterscotch,” and I’d find a place to stop. Sure enough, a passenger wanted to get off the bus, and I’d overheard part of it, and when the director came to ask me to pull over, I simply asked, “Butterscotch?” and we had a good laugh when we got stopped.
What’s your best piece of advice for a newbie?
As someone who had to gain the respect of the older generation of drivers by proving my abilities behind the wheel, I would say: Listen to their advice but don’t forget that it’s you in the driver’s seat and the responsibility of the safe operation of your coach falls to you alone while on the road.
From the perspective of the driver’s seat, what’s your favorite bus to drive and why?
A late-model Prevost H3-45. When you haul athletics, you need all the space you can get in the luggage bays. Also, I love that on a hill the Volvo D13 and Allison 6-speed combo never stop pushing you forward.
What’s your career highlight?
I spent two seasons as the lead driver of the IU football program. Go Hoosiers!
What question should we have asked and what’s your answer?
I’d have liked to see a question about what it’s like for younger drivers in the industry. At 27, I’m the second-youngest driver at Miller Transportation Indianapolis. It’s definitely a great career to get into if you want to see the country.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.