Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Part 5 of an installment, exclusive to This Crazy Train, "Meet the Deckers"

Editor's note: If you have had issues while aboard a Double Decker bus, or have a story about a Double Decker experience, drop me a line at

Special to This Crazy Train

Keep your eyes on the road, two hands on the wheel...
by Ali Gator (not his real name)

The Transportation Safety Board (TSB) issued two letters to the City of Ottawa regarding the Sept. 18, 2013 collision between an OC Transpo bus and a VIA Rail train.  The investigation is on-going.

The recurring theme in the TSB's verbiage is the driver "may" have been distracted by the video monitor.  For those not familiar with the device, here is the TSB's letter on the matter.

I found the references to the Canada/USA guidelines to reduce driver distraction interesting, especially the following:

"The guidelines are based on the fundamental principle that a driver's eyes should be looking at the road ahead rather than at an in-vehicle device.  The guidelines are designed to encourage automakers to forego in-vehicle systems that require the manual input of data while a vehicle is in motion, or that require unreasonably long glances away from the forward visual scene."

When I saw the photo of the overhead console of the OC Transpo bus, I thought it to be rather Spartan when compared to GO Transit double-decker buses, which are built by Alexander Dennis Ltd, too.  With reference to Photo 1, a GO Transit driver will need to look up to use any of the following instruments:
1. Video monitor
2. HVAC control
3. Destination sign controller
4. PA system
5. Computer aided dispatch / GPS navigation, aka CAD/AVL.  Apparently, GO Transit Operations can send text messages to this device.
6. Multi-channel radio (with handset) for voice communications.
7. Controller for the video system.  Apparently, there is no access this device yet, but it does power up, and it is a distraction, because it’s too bright for some drivers.

Photo 1: Overhead instruments on GO Transit double-decker bus
Photo 2 shows there are controls on the left console, and the PRESTO point of sale terminal is to the right of the driver's seat.  Hanging over the red-handled emergency brake is the microphone for the PA speakers, which are used to announce upcoming stops.  Interactions with the PRESTO machine happen sometimes when the bus is in motion.

It should be noted that drivers of shorter physical stature must make a significant effort to reach up to the controls of the instruments when the bus is in motion.  Not shown is the rear view mirror to see what is happening in the lower saloon.

Photo 2: A complete view of the driver's area
Photo 3: A closer look at the side console
Photos 4 and 5 illustrate another source of distraction; the overhead instruments can come loose from the panel.

Photo 4: Instrument hanging precariously above the driver
Photo 5: Destination sign controller held in place with “official” GO Transit duct tape
As one driver remarked to me, "It was much easier to execute my job before GO Transit introduced all this newfangled technology."  The introductory lines to Roadhouse Blues were never truer and support the Canada/USA guidelines for reduced driver distraction.

There is some contention surrounding the content of the TSB letters, but that's a story for another day.


Anonymous said...

How the fuck are these things even allowed? I can't believe a driver, in charge of so many lives, could be forced to focus on anything BUT the road.

Anonymous said...

PS. Sorry for swearing.
This makes me mad. People died in that Ottawa crash!

C.J. Smith said...

Yes. People did.

I don't drive for a living so I can't comment. I drive strictly for pleasure and I've never been able configure half the crap on the console for our Ford Flex while the car is in motion.

Anonymous said...

They get use to most of it . The lower model 8101-8125 are the most distracting due to a HVAC, so I've been told as no one knows how to actually work them correctly & apparently there is no "instructions". Several times last year the driver could clearly be seen looking down left & then suddenly braking hard. Add to this the loud "Beeep" they get oh & not forgetting the false alarm on the dash telling the driver to STOP immediately but 10 seconds later the fault clears.

Ali Gator said...

The 8101-8125 buses are why I wrote "Meet the Deckers" initially. I despise 8116, because in addition to all the other DD problems - loss of power on the QEW, coolant leaks, NOISY, etc. - that one had (and may still have) a faulty rear cargo door sensor. So many trips were delayed by that sensor, and the mechanics could/would never fix the problem. These substandard Scottish engineered buses have inflicted so much stress on drivers, which in itself is a distraction.

mark p said...

go figure my crossover suv has console touchscreen thing that controls alot (climate, audio, handsfree, GPS) that locks out entering anything while the car is in motion but a go bus driver has to deal with all that crap while driving a big double decker......

Anonymous said...

just wondering how this guy was allowed to get that close to the operating area of GO DD coach and take pictures of it?? there ya GO!

C.J. Smith said...

If you're on the bus and the driver is not ... ?

Anonymous said...

Seems to me that is a GO driver taking these pictures and complaining

C.J. Smith said...

Nope. Sorry.