June 18, 2019 | 72° F

A day in the life of Steve — a Rutgers bus driver

This is what it's like to spend 12 straight hours on an H bus

Photo by Malaika Jawed |

One of the drivers at Rutgers said that there are no designated breaks during his 8-12 hour shifts, which is why most drivers opt to make longer stops at the Rutgers Student Center.

The Rutgers University bus system, operating across the New Brunswick and Newark campuses, is the second largest bus system in the state, surpassed only by New Jersey Transit's statewide bus system.

According to a press release from First Transit, the company that operates the Rutgers bus system, there are 70 bus drivers between the two campuses, and the fleet is 50 buses strong.

“It's a good company. I have no problems with them,” said Steve, a bus driver at Rutgers.

Steve said that he has been working as a bus driver at Rutgers for two weeks.

“I've had worse jobs,” he said. “This job isn't bad at all.”

Steve drives the H bus route on weekday nights. The H bus is one of two bus routes that travels between the College Avenue campus and Busch campus, the other being the A bus. Of those two, only the H bus continues to operate after 9 p.m. 

Steve's shift is 8 hours long and ends at 10:46 p.m. He said that shifts vary in length, the longest ones being 12 hours.

A driver is assigned to a single route for each shift. Some drivers take back-to-back shifts, and in those cases, they may be moved to a different route from one shift to the next.

“It depends on where they need the people,” Steve said.

Bus routes are coordinated on a precise schedule, Steve said. A bus driver carries a clipboard that lists every stop he will make during the shift, each with an exact time that the bus needs to be there.

The schedule doesn't leave room for breaks, even on the longest shifts, Steve said. 

But, a driver may take a short break if he is sufficiently ahead of schedule. Steve said that the most popular spot for drivers to take breaks is the College Avenue Student Center because there is plenty of space outside to leave the bus for a few minutes, allowing the driver to stretch his legs or use the bathroom.

Drivers further coordinate their routes among themselves by using their radios, Steve said. The radios enable them to stay in communication with one another. They can alert other drivers if police have blocked a road or if a route needs to be temporarily modified for any other reason.

The radios are mainly used for practical reasons, but Steve said that the drivers also use them to speak to one another and exchange friendly greetings. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among the bus drivers.

The buses are tracked with GPS systems, Steve said. This information is put to several uses. Many bus stops have digital displays that list how long the wait will be for the next bus. Students can also access wait times for each bus by using Rutgers' official phone app. There are also a number of unofficial, student-designed apps for Android and iPhone that use the same information in other ways, such as displaying it graphically on a map.

The bus drivers' managers use the GPS information to locate a bus in the event of an accident, a mechanical malfunction or in any other situation in which the driver would need assistance, Steve said.

“If anything goes wrong, they know exactly where you're at,” Steve said. “But it's been pretty uneventful for me, which is good.”

Max Marcus

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