Why Are Bus Steering Wheels So Big?

When you were a child boarding the bus, you probably wondered, “Why are bus steering wheels so big?” As we get older and taller, we realize that most things aren’t as large as we thought they were—except bus steering wheels. They really are enormous. Finally, we have an answer for you.

Turning and Torque

Because a bus is larger, it has a lot more weight pushing down on its wheels. For instance, a car weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,500 pounds, while a bus can be 20,000-plus pounds. You’ll need a lot more torque to turn those wheels. The traditional large bus wheel gives a driver more leverage to turn the steering column. This way, you don’t have to be a competitive weight lifter to drive a bus.

Precise Adjustments

A bus driver has to maneuver through lanes the same size as small cars but with a lot less clearance. With a smaller steering wheel, any adjustments could be too abrupt for safety. With a larger steering wheel, you can make a correction without changing the turning radius of the bus too dramatically. Smaller adjustments won’t cause any instability.

What About Power Steering?

Now that power steering is on most vehicles, the larger steering wheel on buses isn’t as necessary. Of course, that’s if everything goes well. If the power steering should falter, the driver is responsible for a busload of passengers and needs to be able to turn the wheels manually. As a safety precaution, the larger steering wheel makes it easier to turn all those tens of thousands of pounds if the power should fail.

So Why Is the Wheel Flat?

This feature has changed over the years and varies in vehicles, but initially, the large steering wheels on buses sat almost horizontally. The driver sits directly above the tires, so for the steering column to correct the tires, the steering wheel needs to be positioned at a different angle. More recent bus models have options for the driver to adjust the position of the wheel.

There’s another concern, too: when bus steering wheels are big, drivers need to reach the whole diameter. It would be counterproductive for the wheel to be digging into the driver’s lap.

If you’re interested in a charter bus for sale, National Bus can show you a selection of vehicles and tell you about your steering wheel options. Contact us to learn more about the best model for you.

Mike Curtis

Mike Curtis

Mike Curtis General Manager National Bus Sales

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