You may see Valley Metro bus operators daily. But, have you wondered what goes into being one? I wanted to find out.
Far from being cooped up in an office, the benefits of operating a bus include stable work and a chance to interact with the community.
“When we look for new operators, we look for people that have great interaction and customer service skills,” said Patrick Camunez, First Transit human relations manager. First Transit is the service provider for operating and maintaining buses in the East Valley. “We can train them how to drive the bus, but we want people who are personable.”
Before a potential bus operator gets behind the wheel, they must get a CDL, or commercial driver’s license with two special endorsements. They must also pass an extensive medical exam.
Other requirements include good verbal communication skills. You must be at least 21 with a valid driver’s license for at least three years. Please note all applicants are subject to passing a background check, drug test and a physical.
Once you’re out there on the road, a bus operator has a lot to manage. They must drive defensively, watching for other motorists, cyclists and pedestrians. They are required to negotiate through busy streets and be aware of what’s around their 40 or 60-foot vehicle at all times.
To ensure safety, a bus operator is required to do a 50-point inspection prior to starting their first trip of the day.
Another requirement for being an operator is excellent customer service. “Driving is the easy part. The challenge is dealing with the public,” said bus operator Willie Skinner. “How can you make someone’s day brighter? What if someone is nervous riding the bus? How can you help get them there?”
Operators carry all types of passengers including those with disabilities and are traveling without a para-professional, aide, monitor, or other assistance. According to Camunez, the operator, "has to take on the role of the aide. They will often help with assistance boarding, bags, etc. The operator will also have to ensure that the rider is aware of the stops and the location they are needing to be dropped off."
If you are you interested in traveling for work (locally, of course), meeting new people and sitting behind the wheel of a 40,000-pound bus all day instead of a desk, consider being a Valley Metro bus operator. All of the Valley Metro job opportunities are found here at: https://www.valleymetro.org/careers