Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Incident in a Service Station

A Picture of Walsall Football Ground plus a big advertising hording. The ground is next to the hotel where I stay when I go up to collect my coach load of holiday makers. It is also next to the M6 motorway which is why the advert is there. It is BIG so it can be seen from the motorway, it's big enough to be seen from space never mind the motorway.

This weeks little incident from the M5 is nothing to do with driving though I would make one little request before I report the main item. In this day and age of fuel saving it is an idea to drive a little slower than the speed limit of 70mph, it does save fuel, money and maybe the planet though I fear we are too later for the last one. But could you please drive at 61mph instead of 58mph. You see us coach drivers, and truck drivers, are restricted to 60mph on the motorway and if you are doing 58mph it means we will catch you up and have to move out to overtake you. If you do 61mph we won't.

Anyway, there I was heading south with a coach load of people and we had been going for two hours and a nice service station appeared over the horizon and I felt like a short break, as did my passengers. So I pulled in and parked in the coach park. As I stopped I looked at the time, 1:38. So I explained that we would be here for 20 minutes and would you all be back by 2:00, any later and there would be an empty space where the coach was presently parked. Many a true word spoken in jest.

As I was explaining this draconian rule a coach parked on my right was pulling away. Little did I realize that he, the coach driver had really applied the self same draconian rule. I was very soon to find out. I then got of the coach, I half noticed 3 teenage girls come into the coach park area, they looked, looked again, looked at my coach and an other coach on my left, looked at each other, looked at their watches. I joined in the fun and looked at the time. 1:41. They came up to me and asked where the white coach had gone. "Heading south down the motorway." was the only answer I could give. One of the girls said the driver had told them to be back at twenty to two. As they had been there probably about two minutes by now it meant they were cutting it a bit fine but the driver also was running close to the wind and not allowing a minute or two just in case his watch wasn't exactly right. Nor had he done a head count.

The girls had a phone number of the booking agent they had bought their tickets from which they rang. The got the coach company's phone number and spoke to them. While we were waiting I suggested that if the coach company couldn't contact the driver or sort out the problem another way they find the service station manager. I mean he/she must have had this sort of thing happen before.

By 2:00 most of my passengers were back on board, 38 out of 45 and I was beginning to consider copying my colleague and driving off into the sun set when the coach pulled into the park opened the doors and the girls jumped aboard and continued their journey. The driver must realised they were missing, gone down to the next junction and turned round and come back. The coming back must have been the hard bit. It was Bank Holiday and the north bound side was full of very slow moving traffic heading home, we on the south side had a beautiful clear road.

Lesson from the day:-
Always do a head count.


Prodigal Green said...

but the longer you wait the more people will take advantage of "he'll never go without us".

Malcolm said...

When I was driving coaches I never said "we'll leave at xx:yy time". Ask any two people the time and their watches will be different! I only ever said "we're stopping for 30 minutes" 20 minutes etc and told them to work out the departure time as it would be on their watch! I also added that I wouldn't be doing a head count as it was their responsibility to be back on time. Puts the ball firmly in their court! Having said this I usually did a 'mental' head count without them noticing and would wait a max of 5 minutes over the stop time I'd declared. I can't recall ever 'losing' a passenger.