Perceptions of bus drivers are often not positive ones, but this year's winner of the UK’s bus driver of the year is a perfect example of the diversity and professionalism that exists within the industry.
08 September 2013 - Gordon Cutting is not your typical bus driver. Having graduated with a degree in physics and astrophysics from Birmingham University in 1992, he thought it would be a good idea to get to know the industry in which he intended to work as a scheduler from the bottom up, so he applied for his licence. “I found out I was good at it and I enjoyed it. If you approach it right, it is probably one of the best jobs in the world. I have the best passengers of any driver in the country. They are the reason I do what I do and I drive the way I drive. Interacting with passengers is what puts a spring in my step every day,” he said.
Mr Cutting made the right choice, and his decision was rewarded last month when, at the third time of trying, the 42-year-old was handed the ultimate accolade for passenger transport professionals and named Bus Driver of the Year.
Mr Cutting, whose route from Chipping Norton to Oxford is one of the most picturesque in the country, notched up just 180 penalty points in a gruelling and tense competition in Blackpool early September, which pitted 105 national finalists against each other.
Each driver was required to execute a series of precision manoeuvres, including refuelling, negotiating a tight chicane and reversing out of a bay – all in an unfamiliar bus. Drivers were also required to make two, inch-perfect halts at special competition stops before passing a breathalyser test and then completing arduous written tests. Operations director Keith Fieldhouse, who set the course, highlighted: “These are the top drivers in the country – the real cream of the crop”.
Indeed, bus drivers are industry Ambassadors and the first point of contact for passengers, which is why top priority is placed on professional training to help them provide a smooth ride and get people to their final destinations safely and comfortably. Moreover, bus companies are making a user-friendly move when improving service quality and introducing leather seats, Wi-Fi and air conditioning. It seems to be working, as bus passenger numbers are growing. “Most bus companies now have a higher level of customer satisfaction than big retailers such as Marks & Spencer. It is in the upper 80s and 90 percent,” Fieldhouse concluded.