Saturday, 15 May 2010

I've Been VOSA'd

VOSA (The Vehicle and Operator Safety Agency) are often the bus driver's worst nightmare. For sure they are a very important organisation, with an important job to do and for the most part they do it well.

But in all organisations such as VOSA, there is always the odd over zealous inspector who can make your life a misery. Though not seen often, bus drivers have multiplied the fear factor by 10 and demonised anyone from this organisation. All drivers have stories of varying truth of how they were stopped by VOSA.

"Guess what," said one driver to me. "They were sitting in their cars in the service station, with binoculars trained on the buses parked on the other side of the motorway to check the drivers really were having their 45 minute break and not doing other work."

My heart therefore sank when I saw the yellow high visibility jackets, milling around the school coach park where I was about to drop off.

"Would you park up, driver" the leader said in businesslike tones. "Now is there anything on this bus you know to be defective or dangerous?" I whitened. This was a rotten question. If I said no and he found something, I would be fined and if I said yes I was admitting guilt of knowingly taking out a defective bus. What do you do?

Luckily I had been watching Newsnight the night before and had taken a hint from some politician who was under fire from the presenter.

"When I did my morning walk-round," I said, "at that moment in time there appeared to be nothing defective with the bus." It seemed to work and he gave the bus a clean bill of health.

This was not the case with another driver. The inspector had walked round the old bus, boarded and said sarcastically: "So what make of bus is this?" The driver did not like his remark and thought the best way forward was to fight sarcasm with sarcasm. Pointing to the VOLVO logo on his steering wheel he replied: "Well this might give you a clue."

His inspection lasted a great deal longer than mine.

The next morning I was pulling into a different school in a different county and blow me down, I was surrounded by more yellow hi-vis jackets. This inspector was businesslike, but more polite, calling every bus driver, sir. His two assistants who he called Mork and Mindy were kinder natured too. The bus passed too and as I left the park I saw Mindy, closely followed by Mork trying unsuccessfully to flag down another bus. The driver had obviously not seen them. He would never have ignored them. Not 'alf.

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