A Rookies Guide To Finding Happiness as a Bus Operator
Hey Rookie, welcome to your new career! Transit can be a really rewarding and promising path if executed correctly. A CDL is an investment that will pay dividends over the course of a lifetime, not to mention you’ll never be unemployed for longer than a few days.
Now I know you might see a lot of negativity on social networking media all of which suggest that this industry is bad. Is it outdated? Absolutely but I wouldn’t go as far as to say bad. It has legacy problems, not problem…. problems.
What does that mean? I’m glad you asked. The industry is a “boomer” that refuses to adjust to the way of life now. Transit, in a nutshell, is an industry for the older generation, run by the older generation with principles for the older generation, that desperately needs the younger generation. Having said all that, it does not lack potential.
If you are an aspiring operator, or just someone looking for a career change, In this article I’m going to teach you how to have a successful career doing this. This isn’t a rule of thumb, but rather my personal guide, based on my experiences.
About me? My name is Patrick, and I’m the founder of Transit Gigs. We are a platform whose mission is to connect more people to great middle-class bus operator jobs. I started as an operator back in 2010, and to date, it’s still the best choice I’ve ever made. But let’s get into this guide.
Have an Entry and Exit Plan
Listen, transit is a great debt-free industry to get into. No college or Sallie Mae is needed. You don’t even need a CDL. They’ll teach you everything you need to know while practically holding your hand until you get your license. It is my personal belief that Bus operators have about a 10-year window to get in and get out before their performance starts to decline. Here’s why….patience and boredom. The job can and most likely will be stressful, and earlier on in your career, you’ll have a lot more patience than later. This is especially true for younger people.
When I got in the game, I was 20 years old. Obnoxious school kids and rude passengers didn’t bother me at that point, however, once I hit that 26-28ish age. My perception started to mature, and certain things just annoyed me more. This isn’t a bad thing though. Just the way humans work. Teenagers don’t annoy you when you’re 20 because you’re still a teen basically. When you approach 30 though? Good God, they can get under your skin.
Don’t feel bad for having the desire to get off the bus. It doesn’t make the job any better or worse. Listen, bro, everyone else in the transit industry moves around. Everyone from the CEO to the cleaners. Don’t allow anyone to tell you, you gotta do this for 30 years. That’s unsustainable for most. Even investors and million-dollar companies have an “exit plan” and you should too.
- Get your foot in the door
- Determine your next move
- Use the bus to finance it
- Move on
Remember You Work For A Political Organization, Not A Transportation Company
As a driver for public transit, you work in politics. That’s the truth. You THINK you are just a bus driver. Being a bus operator is the function of the job, however, your job is aligned closer to that of customer service, and brand ambassador. This results in hundreds of eyes being on you whether you realize it or not.
Why is this important? Because narratives matter and Karens still exist. People, not just bus operators lose their jobs every day over what they post online. Now, is your social media your property, yes but no. You think it is, but you’d be surprised how many people have access to your data, but that’s another conversation.
In a perfect world it would be nice to have your Facebook and such be yours and yours alone, however in the real world, especially in a political space…narratives matter, and things posted on the internet live forever. Driving a bus is already hard enough, don’t make it harder by not understanding the “imagery” part around it. Normal government workers can just hide their I.D. and keep it moving. You cannot because of the uniform, and in the world of camera phones, screenshots and databases you don’t want the unnecessary headache of being pulled up on something stupid.
Don’t Get Used To Overtime
Transit wages as a whole for entry-level used to be well behind the 8 ball. Was that way for a while. Now entry-level wages at most agencies are above 50K. Overtime will be promoted heavily when you come in the door. Don’t take the bait. Work Overtime with purpose, do not and I repeat do not become one of the operators who NEED overtime to live. You will burn out and become miserable.
Work Overtime as an investment mechanism. Here is a section from 4 Financial Mistakes To Avoid As A Bus Operator at The Start of Your Career. I wrote this a few years back and it still rings true.
“Overtime can unintentionally cause you to live above your means due to the idea of what you can earn vs what you actually earn. Furthermore, transit jobs, in general, are already hard on your body. Outside of pilots and truck drivers, no other industry has the sort of schedule that we do. Working a lot of overtime will cause you to burn out quicker. This will result in a lack of patience, constant fatigue, and an overall disgruntled attitude because you’ll feel like you are always at work”
Work overtime with a purpose. Avoid the habit of working overtime to handle bills such as rent and car notes. I’ve learned this is an unsustainable formula because these debts come monthly. This will cause you to have to work overtime more than you may like on a reoccurring basis. Why? Because the bills are reoccurring. When you do work overtime, work with a dedicated goal that is not recurring, for example, holiday shopping or new investments. Learn to manage your time and bills off of your base salary, leveraging overtime for things you want, not things you need” I like to put it like consistent income for consistent bills.
Understand The Union Is A Political Organization, Too.
I know I will probably get a lot of slack for this, but Unions are holding transit back. Their intent isn’t bad though, and I recognize this. The Union’s job is to create a fair playing field for every operator, good or bad. However therein lies the problem. The union’s job is to protect the “bad worker too”, and this unintentionally places a ceiling on the great worker.
Unions will sell you fear that the transit agency is this big bad company that just wants to use you and abuse you, cut your wages and then fire you for stupid stuff. That’s why you need them.. Political Agencies or Figures need narratives to sell. You don’t have to take my word for it, just wait until election season in the U.S. lol.
You won’t need the union to fight for your job if you don’t put yourself in a position to be fired and wages will be determined by the market because transit has to compete for workers. It’s really that simple. Look around you, every bus company Union or not is offering the same thing. Around $24 an hour, benefits, and the same infrastructure.
Unions unintentionally create an environment where performance doesn’t really matter, seniority is king, and elections can become a popularity contest really quickly. Don’t waste your time there, remember you have 10 years to get in and get out…focus on that..focus on you.
Unions are good for narratives, handshakes, and connections.
Take everything else with a grain of salt.
Treat Every Passenger As If They Pay Your Salary Personally
I could get into how tax dollars and such work in the grand scheme of things but I’d be typing forever. Here’s a simpler way to digest this.
The Bible says a man will reap what he sows. No bad deed goes unpunished. No good deed goes unnoticed. Good deeds are a dollar into the universe’s interest account, and bad deeds require a fee.
When you plant good seeds you get flowers, when you plant bad seeds you get weeds. As your career continues you’ll come across operators who will always have something to complain about. They hate their job, they hate the passengers they hate everything. They are always in some sort of confrontation with the riders, always yelling, leaving people who are running for the bus, you know….. those operators.
Every base/depo has them. If you are a passenger reading this, they are rude to us as coworkers too.
It’s because they are trapped, and they know they are.
They know deep down that this is it for them and they hate it. Financial Prison.
They want to leave the job but literally can’t afford to and because they are miserable they want everyone else to be miserable too.
Again read golden handcuffs for a more detailed explanation.
The rough reality is a lot (not all) of those operators are getting the result of bad seeds. Hear me, I’ve done this for 10+ years and I have never been spat on I’ve Never been cursed out. I’ve never been assaulted. I planted good seeds, so I got good flowers.
If you treat people with respect people will take care of you, it’s that simple. You’ll have a few rare exceptions, but this is with any industry. I’ve seen people have issues with Chik-Fil-A workers and they have God Tier customer service.
Drive with a heart to serve, and most issues will sort themselves out.