Paul Rutjes has brought the Cleanteam back on track


Concentrated, Paul Rutjes drives a bus into the car wash at the Arnhem depot of Breng, one of Transdev Netherlands subsidiaries. He parks the vehicle with great precision, opens the doors and gets out. At the control panel, one of the Cleanteam’s assistant employees waits patiently for instructions. Soon, the brushes of the car wash are running at full speed and washing off the dirt of the past days.

Paul watches attentively. When the brushes finally come to a stop, a satisfied smile appears on his face. « So, today’s work is done. Now I have time for that interview! »

The native of Nijmegen has worked in the healthcare sector for 15 years. In addition to that work, he was looking for another challenge, which he thought he would find in being a truck driver.

But that was a disaster, he says with a loud laugh. 

Alot of time away from home, long distances … Not for me. I liked driving such a big vehicle though, so I took eight driving lessons to get my bus driver’s license and started working for Oostnet in 1997, which later became part of this company.

Paul starts doing the math, falls silent for a moment and apparently surprises himself :

So, I’ve been in public transportation for 25 years ! Yet combining work in healthcare and in public transport proved difficult. It became a bit much, and at some point, it was enough. That’s when I made the complete switch to be a bus driver. I haven’t regretted it for a moment.

A big smile appears on his face.

That smile on Paul’s face is something you see more often than not; you rarely find people who are more cheerful and good-humored. And that while his story is not necessarily a cheerful one. The last few years have been particularly difficult for him. During a periodic medical examination in 2019, Paul was suddenly told that he could no longer drive a bus due to an abnormality in his eyesight.

I was never sick. I enjoyed every minute on the bus, it was my dream job. So hearing that message was really devastating. It turned out I’d had a stroke in the past and that had led to a ‘field of vision impairment’, as they so nicely call it. Well, I didn’t think it was all that nice,

says Paul, with a wink.

« It wasn’t just riding the bus that was suddenly not allowed anymore. I also worked for years as a traffic steward, at events such as the Gelredome. Unfortunately, I had to stop that too. That was a pity, because I really enjoyed doing it. Fortunately, I’ve had another hobby for the past 22 years that I can still enjoy: riding my motorbike !”

« Nevertheless, I did not give up after the bad news and started to brainstorm with my supervisor about other work within the company. After all, I have enjoyed working here for years and have great colleagues. And I can’t say anything else : I am very happy with ‘the boss’. The company actively helps me, and I am very well supported. I feel very much appreciated. »

What followed for Paul was a period of different activities within Breng. « With varying results, » he jokes.

« I really enjoyed accompanying new drivers as an instructor during route reconnaissance; I even trained my eldest son, who now works for this company too. I also liked working at Service and Assistance, a service point for passengers and colleagues. Until I ended up at the service desk. It was far too small and cramped a space for me ».

Eventually, Paul found a more permanent role, namely at the Cleanteam in Bemmel. « I started working there as a supervisor for the Cleanteam. The Cleanteam employs people who are distanced from the labor market, and they clean the buses and carry out minor maintenance with great enthusiasm. I supervise the work, move buses and am the contact person between Breng and Driestroom, the organization that supports the assistant employees of the Cleanteam », he explains.

« This work took some getting used to, but it is very rewarding. The work is not easy for all the assistant employees, so I see it as a challenge to make them work better in a positive way. This work took some getting used to, but it is very rewarding. The work is not easy for all assistant employees, so I see it as a challenge to make them work increasingly better in a positive way. I notice that a personal approach works best. I don’t necessarily treat them differently from how I would treat my other colleagues, except with a little more patience when necessary.

That things are still difficult for Paul at times, he agrees: « Those guys talk about buses all day long… That is sometimes quite confronting ».

Perhaps it is his experience from working in healthcare or simply the fact that Paul is an incredibly sociable and positive person but working with the assistant employees of the Cleanteam suits him extremely well.

« Apparently so well, that Breng and Driestroom have decided to set up a Cleanteam in Arnhem as well, and they have asked me to put it on the right track, » Paul says proudly.

And he does that in his own way as much as possible. « I can be rather stubborn sometimes, » he admits with a chuckle. « I often go my own way, but always with the same goal. I try every day to make everything even better than the day before. »

Whether he misses working as a bus driver ? « Oh definitely, definitely. Haven’t quite got over it yet either. It still feels to me sometimes as if something has been taken away from me unfairly. » Yet Paul also sees rays of hope in this situation: « I can still drive the bus around the depot grounds, which I am glad about and thoroughly enjoy every single time. It’s also great to see how the drivers and the Cleanteam interact. Things like that really make my day ! »

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