Bus drivers test skills in Road–e–o

Published 2:31 pm Thursday, May 14, 2009

On a daily basis Shelby County bus drivers encounter problems with misbehaved passengers and the general hazards of driving, but on April 15 they dealt with obstacles of an entirely different nature.

Fifty drivers competed in the 26th–annual School Bus Road-e-o, completing a 10-event obstacle course that included weaving through cones and squeezing their vehicles into an alley with 2 inches on either side.

Drivers from all different areas assembled to compete against each other as they exhibited their driving abilities, said Jerry Davidson, Shelby County transportation coordinator.

“Going through these obstacles will really hone their skills and give them patience,” he said. “They have to really pay attention because every time you hit a cone you get a deduction.”

In this competition, Rhonda Kendrick became the first driver to receive no deductions, racking up a perfect 500 points. She has been a bus driver at Pelham High School for 19 years.

“We plugged the scores in the computer, and it popped out as a 500,” Davidson said. “Everyone was looking at it saying ‘Wait a minute, wait a minute.’ We double-checked the numbers and were tickled to death when they were right.”

The perfect score was shocking to Kendrick, who said she guesses she “just had a really good day.”

Kendrick received a Wal-mart gift card, a cash award and a trip to Gatlinburg, Tenn. Local businesses donate prizes for the winners, as well as a dinner after the event.

The Road-e-o is a friendly competition that allows the drivers to familiarize themselves with the dimensions of the bus and how to maneuver it that also serves as a social gathering, Kendrick said.

Kendrick and the three other drivers with the highest scores will continue to the state level of competition in Montgomery on June 9, where the winner is awarded $500.

“The state competition still has a friendly atmosphere, but it’s a lot tougher and more intimidating,” said Kendrick, who has placed in it twice before. “We’re talking about pulling out good drivers from all around the state.”

The ten drivers with the highest scores were:

1. Rhonda Kendrick, Pelham High School

2. Christine Pohl, Thompson Middle

3. Susan Price, Columbiana Middle

4. Michele Pendleton, Creek View Elementary

5. Nancy Massey, Thompson High

6. Sue Dodd, Helena Middle

7. Tami Fernandez, Riverchase Middle

8. Elizabeth Cooley, Vincent Elementary

9. Patsy Broadhead, Montevallo High

10. Elizabeth Blair, Thompson High