Charles Moerland, 54, has been in the driver’s seat for more than 25 years. He began in transit and driving motorcoaches on the side until he went to work for Compass Coach 16 years ago. The Michigan company is located in Cedar Springs, north of Grand Rapids.
“I love my job. I get paid to travel the country; what’s not to like?” Moerland said.
Bus & Motorcoach News caught up with Moerland to talk to him about why he loves driving a motorcoach, his career highs and lows, and his passion for the business.
How did you become a driver?
My dad was a truck driver for over 40 years. Driving is in our family’s blood. I am the baby of eight kids. All but two of my brothers and sisters are drivers.
What’s the biggest tip you received and the story behind it?
I took a busload of gay people from a gay camp to Chicago Pride in Chicago. We left the camp, and you could hear a pin drop, I asked why they were so quiet? The escort said they were not allowed to talk. I asked why. He said the last driver — a minister he described as “very homophobic” — wouldn’t allow them to. I said, “This is your trip, have fun.” I told the escort that I was gay, and they should have a good time. Well, they did. It was a blast driving them. They gave me a $400 tip for a one-day charter.
What’s the strangest or most bizarre group you’ve driven?
I wouldn’t say strange, but my dispatcher called me and asked if I could do a special charter. I said no problem, then I said what’s so special about it? He said I was going to the airport and picking up a busload of blind people. I said, “What’s so special about that?” He said, “You’re taking them snow skiing.”
What’s your go-to phrase?
It’s a long walk home if you don’t win the game.
What were your previous careers?
I started out working for Burger King at age 18, then I worked for a bank as a teller, then moved on to driving limousines, which led me to driving transit bus for “The Rapid” in Grand Rapids, Michigan. At the same time I was driving transit, I acquired a second part-time job driving a charter bus. For 12 years, I had both jobs. In 2013, I had a shooting on my transit bus. I said, “That’s it, I’m out of here.” In 2015, I became a full-time driver at Compass Coach. I started driving transit in 1998, then driving charter in 2005. Had both jobs until 2015. Now just Compass Coach. I love my job here.
How many miles or states have you driven on a bus?
I can’t begin to tell you how many miles I’ve driven in the past 20 plus years. A lot, and in 15 states.
What’s your favorite and/or least favorite destination and why?
My favorite destination is Orlando, Florida. I used to live in Sarasota. I love it in Florida. My least favorite is New York because of the traffic.
From your perspective in the driver’s seat, what’s your favorite bus feature?
The turning tag axle on my MCI. It makes cornering much easier.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received?
You are a very safe and courteous driver. We will definitely ask for you to drive us again.
What’s your funniest travel story?
When I drove the charter of blind people, as we left the airport, my GPS kicked on and said, “In 300 feet, turn right.” One of the blind people said, “Oh great. Our driver is blind, too.”
I loved it.
What’s your best piece of advice for a newbie?
Pay attention to your surroundings. Don’t overdrive your vehicle. Your passengers are someone’s precious cargo, treat them like they are your family.
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