My Kind of Job: Elaine Flaherty
In the My Kind of Job spotlight this week is Elaine Flaherty, a bus driver with Translink
How did you get there?
I started out in the retail sector working for a well-known supermarket before I moved to Translink for career progression. The bus driver recruitment process included aptitude tests, driving assessment and an interview.
Do you have a typical working day?
We use a rota system so my hours of work can vary from one day to the next. It could be early starts or late finishes plus any day of the week. If I’m on an early ‘split-shift’ I could be starting at 6am. I’ll be allocated my vehicle – the type is dependent on the service I’m providing that day eg schools, airports or general passenger service. I begin my shift with ‘First Use’ safety checks, which are essential to ensure the bus or coach is roadworthy and fit for service. I’ll then start my driving duties meeting all different types of customers along the road from commuters heading to work to school pupils, tourists, the elderly or families. I’ve got to know some of our more regular customers who also like to see a familiar face behind the wheel. After my break, I’ll return for my afternoon shift and hit the road again.
What qualifications do you have?
I have a BA hons degree in theatre arts but to become a bus driver you must have a car driving licence and a minimum of two years driving experience. No actual bus driving experience is required but you need to be at least 21 years old to get a PCV licence through the Translink Training Academy.
What other skills do you need in your role?
As I’m meeting many different people every day, good customer service and communication skills are important. You need to be patient, calm, professional and flexible to deal with customer enquiries and congestion, for example – although bus lanes are a big benefit. Of course, good driving skills are also important; being safety-conscious and using your initiative to handle all sorts of road traffic situations. You need to have good time management, be organised plus have some cash-handling skills although more people are seeing the benefits of smartcards instead of cash.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Being out and about – literally having a change of scenery. Beats sitting at a desk all day. Meeting people from all different places including tourists who are exploring Northern Ireland and often want some tips on the best spots to visit. There’s also a good team spirit among my colleagues and we give each other advice and tips so we’re always prepared for the day ahead.
And the worst?
I have a young family so sometimes I miss their morning wake-up call or bedtimes due to the start or finish time of my shifts.
What do you think are the greatest challenges/pressures of the job?
I have a timetable to meet and I know my customers are relying on me to get them from A to B but sometimes road conditions and traffic can make things more challenging.
I always try to keep my passengers informed and they’re generally very understanding about factors outside my control. It can also be tricky to have enough change if customers hand you £20 notes for low-cost journeys – again, that’s where Smartcards are much easier to handle.
What advice would you give someone considering a career in your profession?
Have a go.
It could be the career that gives you the freedom and flexibility you’ve always wanted instead of the constraints of an average office job.
What’s the most common question people ask when they find out what you do?
How do you drive a big bus like that?
just tell them it’s like learning to drive a car. We get plenty of training and all the buses are modern with power-steering which makes it easier.
How do you like to relax outside work?
I love going to music gigs with my husband and family days out with the kids. At the end of a long day, it’s hard to beat putting my feet up with a glass of wine and some Netflix
n Translink ‘Have A Go’ days at Nutts Corner Circuit in Crumlin (April 10-12) will provide women with an opportunity to drive a bus. To book a session or for further details click www.translink.co.uk/haveago/ or call 028 9027 7880.