Thursday, September 1, 2011

Yeah, so about them GO bus drivers (if you want "the funny" you may want to skip this essay)

Over the past 24 hours, the threat of a GO Transit strike has brought to light public opinion about salary compensation for the various jobs employees at GO do.

One comment made, well, several actually, that struck a chord with me were allegations that driving a bus is not a skill, nor worth the $29/hr wage.

I strongly disagree. The mere act of driving alone is a skill.

Driving a vehicle is hands down the most dangerous and complex thing you will do in a day. It's been discovered through cognitive research that while you drive your brain is processing and disposing of information faster than what was thought to be evolutionary possible. This is why any type of driver distraction can have catastrophic, and often deadly, consequences. The second you take your eyes of the road, you've broken the cognitive connection to everything that was going on around you. When you swing your eyes back onto the road, it takes several crucial seconds for your brain to reset and begin to process the information again. This disorientation is what causes drivers to prematurely or unnecessarily brake while they fiddle with a GPS, read directions, dial a number or find a track on a CD.

When we pay someone to drive us, we expect them to not do anything behind the wheel that we do, such as text and drive, eat and drive, talk on a cell and drive, etc.

Anyone who drives for a profession is making their living out on the road. Their office is in traffic which has got a lot more going on than I do in my office where all I have to focus on is my computer, email and maybe answer the phone. A bus driver's ability to focus and concentrate is paramount to the job. If I can't focus, I merely have more work to do the next day. If a bus driver can't focus or has trouble concentrating, people could die. The same could be said about a brain surgeon. I couldn't do that job either.

Being a bus driver also means you deal with a multitude of unpredictable personalities that comes with working with the public. I can close my office door and work in silence if I want. A bus driver? Not so much. Some try to which only makes me wonder why they don't do something else for a living.

If any of you still think driving isn't a skill but merely a hobby, or scoff at how serious of a responsibility it truly is, it terrifies me to know you're on the road with me.

Piloting a GO Transit bus, let alone a car, both objects composed of materials in excess of thousands of pounds of metal, steel and glass, makes for a dangerous task. It's not a job I believe just anyone can do.

For the regular driving public, many earned their licences after passing a road test based on driving knowledge acquired from a manual and a few road lessons from Uncle Dave. Some of us are smart and enroll in driving lessons but it still remains a choice for drivers in this country to enroll in any kind of advance driver's training. There's no mandatory training prerequisites for a licence save for graduated licensing which is really a series of driving restrictions. Bus drivers go through a completely different and more complex training process. Their role is to keep those on the bus and those on the road safe.

As you've probably guessed, I'm very passionate about road safety. I'm a graduate of numerous advanced driver's training programs. I've learned how to drive on ice, in snow, over standing water and around obstacles so I know in advance of a situation happening how to remain in control of a vehicle should road conditions suddenly change. I've driven collision free for 19 years. I don't chock it up to luck. I chock it up to training and skill.

I know I would be unable to operate a GO bus, even with all the skill and knowledge I've acquired because the bus itself is different from a car. It would also take more than a "few hours" of training to fully master its size.
Trying to swerve in a bus would take a whole different combination of steering, braking and accelerating than what I would do in my SUV.

Then there's the added stress of dealing with an increasingly rude and apathetic commuting public.

I couldn't do it.

Do I believe that all GO employees deserve what they make? I believe the bus drivers do.


lswgirl13 said...

Yes, driving is definitely a skill and while I don't think I'd be confident driving a bus, I'm damn sure that a GO Transit bus driver or any bus driver for that matter doesn't deserve $29.00 an hour. I'm guessing that on top of a regular work week there are drivers who regularly take overtime hours as well, overall not a bad little living.

Squiggles said...

@lswgirl13: I completely agree!

Yes, some people said "no skill" some others, like myself, said "low skill". There is a lot less training involved with driving a bus than say, performing open heart surgery or even rewiring a house.

I do not believe that their "skills" should enable them to earn $29 a hour. Being generous, I would think that $20 an hour would provide a nice life-style for them. That is more than minimum-wage and affordable to the public.

What a lot of the strikers cannot seem to grasp is that if you raise wages, the money needs to come from somewhere. You raise minimum wage, the price of everything goes up to make up the difference that is now being paid, which in turn forces another wage increase. It is a vicious circle.

All I know is that I have some very tight months where it seems like the paycheque will not make it to the end of the month. I make less than one of these bus drivers, yet can still afford the mortgage payments on my house, hydro, transit tickets, etc. What it means is that those months, I have fewer "luxuries" than the other months. In other words, I live within my means and do not expect to get a raise simply because the cost of living goes up. When that happens, I cut back.

These people, instead of threatening to strike, need to look at their situation and live within their means.

C.J. Smith said...

I am a strong believer in that people must learn to live within their means.

I understand what people are 'driving' at. $29/hr is an excellent wage and there are many people who would love to be pulling in that kind of dough and there are others who manage on a lot less and manage to lead a fulfilling life.

I think many of us have forgotten how to be grateful. I was merely standing up for the job and what it entails.

Anonymous said...

Looks like only the die-hard Crazy Train readers will take the time to read this post. Many of us don't like it when you get all serious. If I wanted that, I'd read the Globe. Just sayin'. Putting the disclaimer was a good idea.

P.PICKLER said...

Well you can't win 'em all. There's a serious side to commuting many people would prefer to just ignore. Like, how the train got to Union safely. And why it did.

lswgirl13 said...

I for one, appreciate a serious post, so thanks C.J., makes for an interesting discussion.
You did say a "base" salary of $29.00 so I would take that to mean that there are drivers making much more than that. While I appreciate that a bus driver needs special training, I gotta think it's not rocket science.
@P.PICKLER - I don't think about how I got to Union Station safely, I just assume that for the money I'm paying that the people operating the train are properly trained to do so. Same thing when I get on a plane or get my car fixed. I'm trusting it to the "professionals". Just like in my own job, I was hired on my education and experience.

P.PICKLER said...


Svej said...

A good essay and I agree! If anyone could be a bus driver, I'd be shit-scared. My mother nearly causes accidents weekly in her small Volkswagen, I'd hate to see the damage she can cause in a giant bus (sorry to my mother, but it is what it is!).

Anonymous said...

I think it needs to be pointed out that the maximum wage for a GO driver is $29. Most drivers are not earning that much. Only with many years of service and demonstrated skill would they that get that. Some may say that's still too much even for a tenured person and highly skilled driver, I guess that's a matter of opinion.

skills said...

u know what would be mad-skillz and worth the 29 bucks an hour. driving that go bus backwards, with one arm. blindfolded.

Squiggles said...


That would be impressive! and I would pay real money to see that!

lswgirl13 said...

I think C.J. needs to get photoshopping on that suggestion!!!

Anonymous said...

thank you CJ well said !

Anonymous said...

Maybe it's just me but $29/hr doesn't seem like that much for having people's lives in your hands. At my job, people make a lot more and do a lot less important work.

TomW said...

To those who think $29/hour is too much: would YOU be willing to beomce a bus driver at that wage? (Remembering the irregular hours, the dealing with random people by yourself, the skills required o drive the thing, and the responsibility).

If not, then that means you would have to be paid MORE than $29/hour to become a driver, so stop moaning.
(If yes, off you go, and best wishes)

lswgirl13 said...

Okay, so what's a fair salary IN COMPARISON to other jobs/professions??? For example, I did a little research and it varies on different sites, a registered nurse starts out at approximately $29.00 per hour and goes up to about $40.00 per hour. So does it seem fair that a bus driver would make the same as a nurse, who spent 3 or 4 years getting his/her degree??? Then again, parents leave their kids with ECE workers who barely make minimum wage.

TomW said...

@ lswgirl13: So you're saying a nurse has a starting salary equal to a bus driver's top salary...which means nurses earn mroe than bus drievrs. Sounds about right to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree w. Tom. Wanna make $29 an hour? go and apply for the job. stop moaning.

lswgirl13 said...

No TomW, I'm saying it shouldn't even be close!!! And don't tell try and tell me that they are both responsible for the care of human beings!!!
I used the nurse comparison as an example only. Sorry, but you will never be able to convince me that someone working in what is basically a "low skilled" job should be making anywhere near someone working and educated in a "highly skilled" job. Of course the unions in this country wouldn't agree.

Anonymous said...

One could make that "responsible for the lives of humans" arguement for anything, whether directly or indirectly.

Eg: a construction worker building a bridge that hundreds of people will drive over for years leaves off an important bolt or section beam that could cause the bridge to fail.

A farmer has the lives of many in his hands if he is negligent and produces tainted beef on the market that ends up killing people.

A car assembly worker is if they do a sloppy job and install a component wrong on all the cars on the line, that leads to the car failing to stop or parts falling off.

So, do we pay everyone a high wage because of this in order to ensure top notch quality, or do we compromise to avoid running out of money to pay everyone high wages?

Anonymous said...

I'm a driver and at $29/hr I clear $740 week after taxes, pension and union dues. Try a family of four living on that in the GTA ! 12 years, over a million miles, never an accident, Thousands averted.

Skin Man said...

Why would you expect to support a family of 4 on $740 a week. If you can't support a family within your means, then don't start a family.

Families are a responsibility not a right, they should not be started unless they can be supported.

Anonymous said...

CJ 'living within your means comment..
show me where someone can get an apartment and clothes and GO train passes on minimum wage...
1 bedroom apartments are over $1000/m if you can even find one!
sure you can rent a room in a dirty basement for about $600/m but where will your wife and kids sleep?
there is gross misfunding in the public sectors such as GO Transit, $29/ is far too much for a bus driver to be making when the private industry only has to pay their employees minimum wage.
cost of living is extrordinarly high in our crap province.

george said...

Why would anyone making minimum wage commute by GO? Wouldn't minimum wage jobs be near one's home?
People commute by GO mainly because a jobs pays more than what they can find near their house.

Anonymous said...

@ lswgirl13 wow high horse? U must have some job/training. I am a GO Driver and love to hear how "low skill" my job is dealing with what up to 76 people on each bus plus drops and pickups trying to get you to work safeley and on time so u can keep ur job. And the $29/H is toped out starts at $14 for training and goes up from there. If the job is so low skill y have u not got a job driving the bus? @thiscrazytrain love reading your blog as I am layed over @ oshawa every day with nothing to do (another perk of the job sit in an empty bus for hours at 1/2 rate pay with nothing to do, eat, or drink except what u brought with you. Oh ya the food stays cold in the kitchen in the back of the bus.)LoL keep up the good job! :) said...

Thank you for your the hard work you do!!!

Anonymous said...

I am sorry your lives are worth nothing. First things first every bus driver out there is liable for his actions. If you get into the smallest of infractions, before any other judicial concerns arise, you are immediately ticketed with a careless driving ticket. If there is a really nice cop there he'll give you a speeding in dangerous conditions ticket. No matter what you're getting a ticket. if anyone on you coach gets hurt or gosh forbid dies you are personally responsible until proven otherwise no "innocent until proven guilty" crap here( and yes I've watch it happen). You have to fight to stay out of jail let alone your job. what happens if you crash your computer? you reboot it? must be nice. charter buses make 17 -20 an hour, ttc 24, greyhound 21 to 27 depending on the run, go max of 29.
your city garbage collectors make 22 and no one care if the hit anything hell it's half expected. And they have better pensions.
the average bus driver isn't the reason costs are high for customers. heck I drive twelve hours a day and watch my company make nearly 3000 on average after i deduct my crap wage(250 thats 21 an hour and surprise THERE IS NO OVERTIME, there is no federal or provincial statute for overtime in the transportation business and they are allowed to work you for 14 hours of driving, how sweet) and fuel for a bus they've had for 20 yrs(so it been paid out for 15). they never fix anything and I get to hear passages give me a rough time complain about the same things every day. I've even been punched for being late due to traffic!! Does your computer hit you? does it spit on you? I'm sorry big companies suck, and I'm sorry we are all paying the price for it. BUT SERIOUSLY, its not worth the 21 and yes now I'm on sick leave and yes I really don't wanna go back. So if some one wll do this stupid insane job for 29 an hour let them Its still not worth it. go complain about something else.

Transit operator said...

What funny is the people who are like umm they don't have a high skill level and don't deserve 29$/ hr? Until YOU get behind one of those 72 foot beats and deal with idiots at every stop you can't really judge how much I should make, sepia lay when I have name like squiggles...'
Another dumbass on this post is like "uhhhhh 29$/ hr is to high, 20$/ hr is a decent lifestyle for them" first of all, I think u were high when u posted tht comment. And secondly ur probably minimum wage earning MF who is mad at skilled workers making a decent living. WHO R U JUDGE THAT 2o/hr IS A DECNT ENOUGH PAY? DIRECTOR OF THE TRANSIT COMMISION? NO ur just a piece of dog doodie. Lol.
Get money bro. Don't hate.

Anonymous said...

Finally someone sticks up for large vehicles drivers, yes, they do deserve the pay, infact, I would pay them even more as they are responsible for many lives on the road, not just the ones on the bus, but the ones outside. However, I have noticed some GO bus drivers being very aggressive in traffic, what gives? People surely can't expect a bus to be on-time if there is heavy traffic! Please don't try to make up for it by speeding and taking other unnecessary risks. Otherwise keep up the good work!
P.S. people that spit on bus drivers should be kicked off and then run over.