Front seat view: what it’s like to be a Greyhound bus driver

Jose Fuentes, a Greyhound bus driver, stands in front of the bus he was driving from Phoenix, Ariz. to El Paso, Texas. (Photo by: Genáe Gonzales/ Arizona Sonora News)

 

Long hours and long roads. Constantly going on road trips, but with different people every time. Being more familiar with the roads you are driving on than the people sitting right beside you.

Working as a Greyhound bus driver is different than being any other type of public transportation worker. It’s not like being a city bus driver, who sees most of the same faces on a regular basis and at the same time each day. It’s not like being an Uber or Lyft driver, who gets to drive people around locally in their own car. It is driving several hours from state to state, and spending nights in hotels in cities far away from home.

Jose Fuentes is a regular full-time employee for Greyhound, and his route is almost always from Phoenix to El Paso, Texas. He has been a Greyhound driver for 28 years, and is very familiar with the ins and outs of the job.

“Overall, it’s a good job,” said Fuentes. “But there could be a lot of improvements.”

For one, he said that he wished there was better maintenance on the buses and other equipment the drivers use. He also mentioned that there could be better working hours and schedules, and that better treatment of the drivers should be enforced.

“We need better treatment for the drivers, for us to be treated as professionals by management,” said Fuentes.

As Fuentes said, one of the main aspects of his job is dealing with a lot of different personalities, not just regarding staff but also the customers.

In his  years driving, he has had his fair share of interesting experiences with customers. He had one encounter with a female customer several years ago that he still considers one of his most ridiculous experiences on the job.

“As night was falling upon us,” began Fuentes, “I had a young lady come up to ask me if I could give her a wakeup call. And when I looked over to see who was requesting that, I noticed that she was wearing a see-through nightie.”

Fuentes immediately told her that she needed to change into clothing that fully covered her private areas, and she complied.

The Greyhound bus station, located at 801 E. 12th St. in Tucson, Ariz. (Photo by: Genáe Gonzales/ Arizona Sonora News)

Marie Sims, on the other hand, is an extra-board Greyhound bus driver, which means that she fills in for drivers who can’t drive their regular routes because they are sick, on vacation, or for various other reasons. Because she covers for others, she does not really have a choice of where she goes or when, and has traveled all over the place on behalf of other drivers.

“I’ve gone from here in Tucson to Las Vegas, to El Paso, to Albuquerque, to Los Angeles,” said Sims.

The farthest places she has ever driven to from her home in Mesa are Mobile, Alabama and Savannah, Georgia.

But even though Greyhound bus drivers travel much more than the average person does on a regular day, they still are limited to 10 hours a day. Sims mentioned that most of her work days, she drives for eight and a half to nine and a half hours and is required to take breaks along the way.

Sims does not mind driving for long periods of time, so she enjoys her job. She said that she is a very patient person, which comes in handy because she is constantly surrounded by all different kinds of people on the bus and all sorts of drivers on the road.  She expects people to cut her off while she is driving, and knows that most drivers will speed ahead to get in front of a bus rather than just letting her move over into another lane.

Sims stays very relaxed and said that she has never been someone who gets road rage.  Her main priority is just helping get people where they need to be.

“I love it when my customers say, ‘You’re a good driver,’ or ‘Thank you for getting us here,’ you know,” said Sims. “I love it. That’s like a tip to me – better than a tip.

Genáe Gonzales is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at genaeg@email.arizona.edu.

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