Coral Smith

A profile of bus driver Coral Smith who has been driving buses for some 11 years.

Coral Smith, Dyson Group

If you’re a regular bus passenger, you’ll agree that it’s rare to see a woman behind the wheel. But Coral is one of a growing number of women who are starting to consider careers in traditionally male-dominated fields like transport.

After 11 years on the job, Coral says it’s the interaction with passengers that makes driving a bus so special. She’d recommend it to anyone who likes people.

Tell me about your role.

A normal day for me is just arriving at the depot, logging on, getting in the bus and chooffing off. I have nine routes now, plus about six school runs, so it’s quite a lot. My favourite route is the 542, it’s nice a long one so you’re not rushing up and back all day which can get a bit repetitive. The longer routes make for a smoother day.

How did you get into bus driving?

A friend of mine was a bus driver and convinced me to give it a go. I was pretty nervous at first, but I thought I should at least try. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to handle the bus, that it would be too big for me. But with more practice, I became more confident and now I’m very relaxed behind the wheel. It didn’t take long to build up that level of confidence and feel like the bus wasn’t that scary after all. I’ve been doing it for 11 years now.

What do you love about your job?

I do tend to be a bit social and I like to talk. I like that interaction with the passengers. Just before Christmas, a lady got on with an apple cake she’d just baked. It was still warm and you could smell it and she was taking it somewhere. We got to talking and she cut some off and gave it to me. Things like that aren’t unusual. I had someone give me a leg of lamb one time. And on hot days, I had one passenger who I’d drop off and he’d work out when I was due back and he’d be there with some cold water waiting for me. Little things like that. You meet some beautiful people and it makes the job really special. They appreciate the time you take to talk to them and I know not all bus drivers do that. You might be the only person they talk to all day, so it’s not a waste of my time to say good morning or hello.

What about the challenges?

The traffic can be a bugger. Driving a bus, I’ve had to learn patience. People do not want to give way to you, and they do want to abuse you. They’ll drive on the other side of the road and nearly cause accidents to overtake a bus. The challenge is remaining calm and keeping your patience.

Did you ever imagine you’d become a bus driver?

No, not a chance. So I take pride in the fact that I can do it and that I can do it well. I try to improve as well. That’s something with me, I try to think from the perspective of the passenger and improve my service.

Are there many other female bus drivers?

There’s only three others at this depot. It can be a challenging job for a woman with children at home, but they are starting to respond to differing needs. They’ve just brought in part-time which will be a good option.

Do you think there are any barriers that might prevent more women from becoming bus drivers?

Their husbands. If I even tell my husband about an issue that may have happened to somebody else, it stresses him because he has this fear that I’m out there and he hears these stories. There’s a perception that being a bus driver is more dangerous than it is. I tend to feel safe on the bus. It’s very rare that something might happen when you think ‘oh gosh this could blow up into something’. For me, I don’t get those situations. It’s a rarity.

What advice would you give to a woman who might be considering working in this industry?

Don’t be afraid because we’re better than we think we are. We look at it as a man’s domain when in actual fact, buses are easy to drive. They’ve got power steering. Give it a go. The fear is all in your head. You can actually do it. It’s the mental blocks you put up. If you like people, it’s a good job to have.