Love the Bus honors local bus drivers

PELHAM – The state’s best school bus drivers were recognized for their dedication and hard work at the ninth Love the Bus celebration on Wednesday, Feb. 14, at Transportation South on McCain Parkway.

The event, hosted by Transportation South, brought together about 35 bus drivers and other school system personnel from throughout the state. During the luncheon, which took place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Love the Bus Driver of the Year was also announced.

To find the state’s most beloved bus driver, each school system was asked to nominate a driver who portrays love for his or her job, school and students. The Love the Bus program is a part of a nationwide program that was founded in 2007 by the American School Bus Council.

Bucky Law, owner of Transportation South, said the event is held on Valentine’s Day each year because they program is meant to celebrate drivers “who have a heart for what they do.”

“This a way to give back to the unsung heroes of the education system,” Law said. “A bus driver may be the first smiling face a student sees each day and unfortunately the last smiling face a student may see each day. We should be recognizing bus drivers every day. I wish we could.”

The following Shelby County bus drivers were recognized at the event:

-Joyce Allen, Pelham City Schools
-Christina Freeman, Shelby County Schools
-Michelle Pendleton, Alabaster City Schools
-Sheila Nash, Hoover City Schools

Bus Driver of the Year was awarded to David Black, of Trussville City Schools. Black’s nomination form highlighted the reasons he was chosen to represent Trussville. He is someone who all of the children love. He delivers items left on the bus to children’s homes, he writes get well notes to children who are out sick and he always seems to be able to find the right words for whatever situation a child is going through.

The event held at Transportation South is the state’s only Love the Bus event. Third grade students from Valerie Matson’s class at Meadow View Elementary School in Alabaster also attended the event. Their artwork, which paid tribute to bus drivers, adorned the walls of the room where the luncheon was held.

Joe Lightsey, Transportation South’s school bus sales manager, and Alabama State Department of Education Program Administrator Chad Carpenter highlighted some facts about the state’s school bus transportation system.

Alabama is home to about 16,000 school bus drivers.

“Every school bus takes 36 cars off the road – that a national figure,” Lightsey said. “Think about that, for every school bus, that 36 more cars trying to make it to school to drop off and pick up students. That would be a traffic nightmare and not nearly as safe.”

Statewide about 375,000 students are transported on school buses every day. Carpenter said bus drivers travel 86 million miles annually – not including field trips and sporting events.

For the 2016-17 school year, Carpenter said there were 545 collisions involving school buses throughout the state. Of that, school bus drivers were not at fault for 256 of those collisions. There were 17 accidents with injuries and roughly 39 people injured.

“That’s very good considering how many miles are driven each day,” he said. “There’s nothing that we can invent to put on a bus that’s better than a well-trained, conscientious and dedicated bus driver.”

See more photos at ShelbyCountyPhotos.com.