Why are bus drivers rude?

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In my ten years of driving the bus, I have probably been asked this question hundreds of times:

“Why is/was your coworker so damn rude?”

I’ve also seen other drivers face this question, and unfortunately, in most cases, it ends up with the driver responding with something along the lines of, “I don’t know,” or “That doesn’t have anything to do with me”. 

In theory, that may indeed be the reality, however, that’s not how customer service ought to be. The ideal answer should be, “I am unsure why, however, I do apologize for that experience. How can I help?”

But this article isn’t about better customer service, that article has already been written. In this article, I’ll give my honest and unbiased opinion on why I think some bus drivers are “rude”.

#1-Stress

The absolute number one reason is stress. In general, most people would agree that driving is stressful—working against deadlines is stressful, and dealing with bad customers is stressful. I would assume this is the rule of thumb for human beings, right?

Ok, so let’s take that same idea, and make the vehicle you’re driving massive, the streets smaller, and the drivers around you a whole hell of a lot more aggressive and reckless.

Let’s also modify the idea of the deadline into something we refer to as a “time point” in our industry. The time point is a blip on a timetable that advertises where I am supposed to be a particular time. I am almost 100% sure that someone is reading this and saying, “Don’t worry about your schedule, get there when you can,” or some other clichéd comments that are supposed to,  let the driver know the schedule isn’t a big deal.  That’s a no go.

Unfortunately, this habit breeds drivers who couldn’t give a damn about even trying to keep their bus on time. As operators, we call it dragging the line. Sure, we could challenge our coworkers to perform better, typically because as drivers we can spot when one of our fellow drivers are being lazy on the line. However, drivers like that already have a built-in excuse: “This was how they told me to drive,” and more often than not, their mind tends to be made up. They have literally zero intent of even trying to keep the bus on time, and the passengers, and drivers know it.

As a professional operator, it’s my job to do the best I can to keep my bus on time and I’ve learned that when you actually try, most times you are able to do just that.

For those of us who actually care (which is a big majority!), the schedule is a big deal, and not being able to keep up with it is frustrating. For most people, there is no individual “measurement metric” at their job, rather just an evaluation here or there that is typically done by another human. For bus drivers, not so much: we’re graded by our punctuality rate, i.e. how many times we get to the scheduled time point on time. For drivers, not only is this a measurement, but it’s also a daily evaluation that stares you in the face every time you look at a clock. 

#2 - Inadequate customer service training

My very first job was working at a local grocery store, and the level of detail they put into training us on customer service was next level. Another example is Chick-fil-A. Although I’ve never worked there, I am sure theirs is top-notch as well. Companies like this have invested so much into the overall customer experience that it has become the expectation to have a great time when dealing with them. Unfortunately, when you ride the bus it’s your expectation that your experience will be bad. 

For example, when I started my career in transit, the majority of my customer service training was spent watching very, very old DVDs that were not even close to how the real world works. Worse, I took a training this year for a client I was working for and they legit had VHS in a VCR! I’m serious. I was shocked beyond belief.

In all honesty, I don’t think I was ever really trained on customer service, rather I watched boring, predictable corporate-style videos that were dreadful. This was  right before I signed a certificate saying that I checked this box and I am now fully equipped to deal with the multiple personality types that I will encounter daily in my job as a bus driver. *sarcastic face emoji*

#3 -The expectation

I’ve had quite a few interesting interactions with some of the world’s biggest companies here in start-up land, companies like Google and AWS, and you know what, I did not enjoy those customer service interactions at all. But because that hasn’t always been my experience with those companies, I chalked it up to a bad representative rather than the company standard. Unfortunately, transit/transportation is the exact opposite, it’s insane. When you provide extra good customer service you are viewed as the exception and not the rule. Because of this most people ride public transportation – or even private sometimes – expecting the driver to be stand-offish, not say much and always tap the “Don’t Talk to the Driver” sign.

 

#4 - Bad days

We are all human, right? Sometimes drivers just have bad days, but unfortunately, because you’ve already had expectations for a bad experience, whenever you are driven by a driver who was simply having a bad day, your brain automatically attributes it to your prior expectation. This way, you automatically adjust since it is the same, “business as usual.” It’s nothing new. In my career, I vividly remember “checking out” a lot of times when I had bad days. Now, although I wouldn’t be rude or anything, I always had a less than motivated, uninspired stare out of the windshield. 

Believe it or not, one of the core benefits of the Supir model vs standard transit model is that in the Supir model, drivers can tag out. In the event that a driver needs a break to get his or her thoughts together, they can be sure they will be permitted to enjoy a breather. All they need do is put a brief call through to operations control and request a tag out. Operations control could then assign another driver to relieve that driver during the final segment of the route. This is done to get the operator a short break between the remainder of the line+ layover time+ the return segment. To view how this works in real-time,  have us run a demo at your request by sending us a shout at admin@supir.app

Patrick Parents
Patrick Parents

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