From merchandiser to bus operator, a brave soul makes a career leap, with a little help from GoTriangleMarniecia Johnson made a life-changing decision all at once, but GoTriangle’s Certified Driver’s License-training program led her step-by-step into a new career, until she felt confident steering a 40-foot bus with passengers.
Born and raised in Philadelphia, Johnson (pictured above) was working there for Macy’s in 2022 when she requested to transfer to do the same job at Macy’s in North Carolina. A merchandiser, she was responsible for ensuring that brand-name apparel successfully moved from the shipping dock to store floors and onto floor mannequins. She says she was good at her job but felt she had gone as far as she could in retail management, so she applied to GoTriangle’s program that provides employment while training new employees to earn their CDLs. She was accepted in December and by April 2023, she had earned her CDL.
“I wanted something different, something new,” says Johnson, now a GoTriangle transit operator driving 40-foot buses. “I really wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but when I got the call to come in for the interview, it was intriguing. It sounded like something I was interested in and I wanted to do
Although Johnson only had experience driving 15-passenger vehicles, Johnson said learning to drive a commercial vehicle was not hard because GoTriangle’s program provided staged learning, building on as she acquired competencies in each area. She started by attending classroom training, which she says was informative, before she learned how to drive a small, “shuttle” bus.
“I learned how to get familiar with that, the space differential, and that was interesting because it prepared me for the larger bus,” she recalls. “It was like a stepping stone.”
She then went to the Department of Motor Vehicle to take a written CDL test, and after she passed it, she began driving a GoTriangle 40-foot bus with a dedicated GoTriangle training instructor.
“That’s how you get your real good experience, learning a lot of different things, like how to make turns properly, about the spacing of the bus and being aware of the side of the bus that you’re driving because a 40-foot bus is not an everyday vehicle,” she says. “Once you turn that corner, there’s still a part of your bus that has to come around the corner as well. So it’s interesting.”
Once her GoTriangle trainer deemed she was ready, she took the Department of Motor Vehicle’s CDL road test, which requires both mastering control of the bus and knowledge of its inner workings. After she passed that test in April, she joined GoTriangle’s corps of cadet operators, who drive buses accompanied by seasoned bus operators to learn the routes they will eventually drive with passengers.
Johnson said she was so excited about the program that she called 10 of her friends to tell them about it.
“I was actually calling people and telling them, ‘You need to come to GoTriangle, and you need to get your CDL because … they take you step by step to get your CDL license and how to be able to maneuver and drive large vehicles, and then, you’ll have a job; the training is paid.’ “
A mom with five grown children in their twenties and thirties, Johnson says, she’s also trying to convince her children to relocate to North Carolina because she likes living here. She lives in Warrenton and commutes to work, and she says she has found a career fit.
“I enjoy the job; it’s not difficult to do,” she says. “I like the people that I work with – that’s the first thing – you have to like the people that you are around every day. Being at GoTriangle, because of the hours, and of split shifts, you spend a lot of time – especially if you live far away – with the people that you work with. So I enjoy the people that I’m around when I go to work.”
As far as the passengers she picks up, she says she hasn’t had any bad experiences that have turned off the job.
“Everybody has their issue, everybody has different things going on in their life,” she says, philosophically. “You never know what the next person is going through. So the only thing you can do is be courteous, be friendly, and then, take it from there.”