SBS Transit bus captain hails from South Africa

SBS Transit bus captain Daniel Jacobus Ellis, who gained Singaporean citizenship two years ago, said he turned to the bus company for a stable job. He is believed to be the only bus captain here from South Africa.
SBS Transit bus captain Daniel Jacobus Ellis, who gained Singaporean citizenship two years ago, said he turned to the bus company for a stable job. He is believed to be the only bus captain here from South Africa.ST PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO

The next time you board a bus, the driver may just greet you with a cheerful "goeie more" (pronounced ho-yah mo-ra).

That would be Mr Daniel Jacobus Ellis wishing you "good morning" in his native Afrikaans, one of the 11 official languages of South Africa.

The 34-year-old started his training to be a bus captain in February and has been driving with SBS Transit since April this year.

He is the only Caucasian employed by the company as a bus captain, and he is believed to be the only bus captain here from the African nation.

SBS Transit has about 5,800 bus captains.

Mr Ellis said he has previously worked as a freelance business analyst here, but turned to the bus company for a stable job.

"I saw an ad at the LRT station advertising positions for bus captains, and I thought to myself, 'Why not give it a try?'" he said.

  • 5.8k

    Number of bus captains employed by SBS Transit, and Mr Ellis is the only Caucasian.

Mr Ellis - who moved to Singapore in 2011 when he married his Singaporean wife - gained his citizenship two years ago, becoming one of 20,815 to do so that year.

He said that he considers himself a Singaporean.

Home is a four-room Build-To-Order Housing Board flat in Punggol where he lives with his wife, a school counsellor.

To keep himself alert during his 12-hour-long shifts - which can see him start the day as early as 2.45am - he enjoys a cup of kopi gao (thick coffee) from the Hougang Central Bus Interchange canteen.

That is where he starts his daily route driving bus service 27.

Mr Lee Teck Chuan, the interchange manager, said that Mr Ellis projects "a very professional image" and has received positive feedback both from commuters as well as his co-workers.

One commuter, who wanted to be identified only as Madam Tan, said she was initially surprised to see a Caucasian driving the bus.

"He is very polite and courteous," she said.

While driving a bus is a "generally thankless" job, Mr Ellis said he is sometimes surprised by the generosity of the commuters he encounters.

Mr Ellis, who is Muslim, said he once received a packet of rice porridge from a commuter while he was driving during the fasting month of Ramadan this June.

He said he has become more of a "people person" since taking on the job. Sometimes, commuters approach him while he is driving to talk about their day, he said.

"It's a very pleasant thing."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2017, with the headline 'SBS Transit bus captain hails from South Africa'. Print Edition | Subscribe