New class of bus drivers graduates

By SASHA JOHNS / Community Columnist

“You will be more than ‘just’ a bus driver,” state trainer Sam Ellis told his latest class of potential school bus drivers. Over and over, trainees for the Shelby County Transportation System heard phrases like this during the process of preparing them to carry our community’s most precious assets to and from their schools safely.

Throughout the month of October, individuals from all over the county spent weeks learning how to operate school buses safely. Road practice, learning to safely back up and an intense pre-trip policy are all just part of the rigorous training the county puts candidates through before they begin studying with the state trainer. It’s a short but thorough training schedule.

Over the last year, the transportation department for the Shelby County School System has struggled to fill all their driver positions.

“We’ve had driver positions open since April,” transportation coordinator Rick Vines told us. “We also need to fill several sub positions to keep things working properly.”

Thanks to the October training class, several of each of those positions were filled.

“You can’t beat the hours and the benefits you get with becoming a bus driver,” one student in the class told us.

Trainee Chris Zobrosky shared his thoughts on getting through three weeks of bus class. “Training to drive a school bus for Shelby County schools was intense, stressful and rewarding,” he said. “The responsibility and amount of knowledge that are required of a bus driver is much more than one might imagine. I’m looking forward to getting to know the kids on my route, and I have made some great new friendships this month with new coworkers. That outweighs the stress of all the testing.”

We also asked long-time bus driving veteran and Shelby County Rodeo champion Ashley Whitfield what she thought the most important part of being an effective bus driver was.

“Safety first and being consistent with discipline are important if you’re going to drive a bus,” she said. “If you can do those two things the kids will respect you more.”

Wanda Adams, the accounting clerk at the Columbiana bus shop, told us those considering becoming bus drivers should have a few qualities in their makeup.

Not only should they be dependable and safety conscious, but they should love children, want to be part of the community and have an interest in making a difference in a child’s life. “A bus driver may be the first person they see in the morning, so a positive attitude and smile go a long way,” Adams said.
The bus shop in Columbiana hosts training sessions three times a year – January, June and October – but there is a little work that has to be done before one comes to class.

Anyone interested in becoming a school bus driver should first acquire a CDL driving permit through the Alabama Department of Transportation before class.

They also need to apply for the preliminary position at Shelbyed.org under the red “Transportation” tab on the website, or call the Bus Shop at (205) 682-7130.