SCS bus drivers compete in 35th annual School Bus Road-E-O

By GRAHAM BROOKS / Staff Writer

MONTEVALLO–If you drove anywhere near the University of Montevallo’s campus the morning of Wednesday, April 11, chances are you saw several yellow school buses.

But these buses weren’t picking up or dropping off students. Instead, these bus drivers were settling in the driver’s seat to compete in the 35th annual Shelby County Schools Bus Road-E-O.

This annual event brings bus drivers, administrators, transportation safety coordinators, mechanics and more together for a fun day of competition, camaraderie and becomes the ultimate test of bus driving skills.

Veteran and rookie bus drivers from all across the Shelby County Schools district including Helena, Montevallo, Chelsea, Columbiana and Calera competed in various obstacles and challenges including right turn, stop line, backing, railroad crossing, serpentine, offset alley, child pick-up, diminishing clearance, curb line, left hand turn and more.

Each driver put their skills to the test and received points for successfully completing each challenge. Points would be deducted for hitting cones or struggling with certain obstacles. Drivers also had to point out and find certain defects on buses.

After all was said and done, the group met back at the Stewart Student Retreat Center for lunch and the announcement of the winners.

The top five bus drivers of the 35th Bus Road-E-O were Tiffany Thomas of Calera, Ron Collins of Helena, Jeremy Villar of Montevallo, Allison Whitfield of Columbiana and the winner was Wayne Price of Montevallo.

Price said he has been a bus driver for four or five years and has competed in the event each year where he finally broke through to take first place.

“What’s funny is I’ve come in fourth every year and I used to tease, ‘you don’t know how hard it is to strive to be fourth,’” Price said. “You always have to miss just the right amount of stuff to come in fourth. I like the camaraderie of the event and I like to joke around so it’s just fun.”

Price said he believes the offset alley obstacle is the toughest part of the Bus Road-E-O competition.

“The offset alley is the toughest which is where you have to get your bus really straight and then you have to offset it,” Price said. “It’s almost like changing lanes but it’s really narrow.”

The top five bus drivers in the district will also get to compete in the State Road-E-O competition in June against bus drivers from across the state of Alabama.

Tom Ferguson, deputy superintendent of Shelby County Schools, will be retiring in June and attended the Bus Road-E-O for the 18th time.

“This is one of the best groups that I have to work with and it’s just so much fun every year and thanks for all that you do,” Ferguson said. “It can be stressful but it’s important and there’s a lot of responsibility.”