Driving a charter bus is not always fun and games. On a busy summer day, as our line runs get busy with all the university students leaving town for the summer, I had the pleasure to drive a scheduled run to O’Hare International Airport. A full bus of commuters and lots of construction and traffic jams on the interstate made for a long day.
In this video, I show some of the more demanding aspects of what a day can be like for a motorcoach operator.
A scheduled line run involves picking up individual ticket buyers who booked tickets on our bus to travel to a preset destination. We actually run our schedule about five to eight times a day. But on days like today, when universities let out, it is a huge operation.
Extra buses on hand
On my run, we brought in third-party buses to help us. We also had a bunch of our buses lined up, waiting to go.
Drivers are supposed to report to the loading supervisor, who is out on campus loading luggage and getting all the passengers organized so that nobody ends up on the wrong bus. On this morning, I’m scheduled to pick up at the university at 8 a.m. with a drop off at O’Hare by 11 a.m.
Once we drop off, we’re going to be empty, so we’re going to deadhead back to the University of Urbana-Champaign. I should be back about 2:30.
If we weren’t so short on drivers, I actually would be wearing a red vest out here, helping with the coordination and loading of passengers and luggage. The loaders are still with the bus doing the circuit and they should be here momentarily. Then we’re up.
Loaders are a blessing
The loaders work just like a well-oiled machine. It’s nice to have these guys. Otherwise, by the time you get everyone’s luggage loaded, you’re a hot sweaty mess and now you have to drive the bus for the next two and a half hours to O’Hare. So loading teams are definitely a blessing for our drivers.
I have three stops to pick up our passengers. It’s gonna be a full bus.
I was hoping to make a stop in downtown Chicago on the way back because I haven’t eaten all day. Unfortunately, because of the traffic and all the construction going on, I’d be detouring about an hour and a half out of my way. With how busy the company is, we actually need this bus to go out on another trip after I get home.
Here’s what some of you had to say about my line run experience:
Nathan Snyder: The company I currently work for is actually featured in this video. Shown at 15:49, I work for EAC (Express Air Coach) out of Lafayette, IN. This video reminds me of the three years I spent working for Reindeer Shuttle in West Lafayette, IN, doing line runs every weekend from Purdue to O’Hare. We even had the same stop order as you (5, 1, 2, 3, SC). Thanks for the videos. Buses make me smile!
KingArthur: When I have dropped at O’Hare, I would do the domestic terminals first. I find that to be faster, especially since I have to pass Terminal 5 when I leave T3 anyway. Plus there’s a turnoff on the Bessie Coleman ramp that allows you to access the upper level of T5 without going to the light at the end of the ramp. When loading at O’Hare, it makes total sense to load at Terminal 5 first, then proceed to the Bus Shuttle Center. Did your loaders organize the luggage by terminals? That also speeds up the process. If you drop at Terminal 1 first, that empties half your load. By the time you drop at Terminal 3, you won’t have to dig out the international passenger luggage, which also tends to be the heaviest. Great video.
Bus Driver Jonny: Great video, I do a similar thing for the company I work for in the U.K., albeit ours is run on behalf of Megabus from Manchester to London via Heathrow, and the return leg is London to Manchester via Heathrow & Birmingham, although I have a feeder driver who takes the coach off me between Birmingham & Manchester. Otherwise, I’d go over my hours. I like the idea of loaders, though, as packing many bags onto the coach can be pretty tiring before a stint driving, especially with the weight of some of them. Makes you wonder what on earth people must pack to travel.
Bus & Motorcoach News contributor James Wang is co-owner of Peoria Charter Coach Company and a bus geek who shares his passion for the motorcoach industry on his two YouTube channels, J Wang and Motorcoach World.
Read more James Wang’s columns here.