School bus drivers and mechanics turned out June 14 to compete in the Colorado State Pupil Transportation Association’s School Bus Championship Roadeo.
At the annual roadeo, competitors vied for top spots at the “America’s Best” competition while also enjoying a banquet dinner, awards ceremony and vendor exhibit at Dutch Clark Stadium in Pueblo, Colo. CSPTA board trustee Theresa Anderson said that although the roadeo is a serious competition because of prizes and the opportunity to advance to the national competition, it also promotes a spirit of conviviality and good sportsmanship.
“There are some veteran winners every year. We actually have school districts and contractors competing at the same event,” Anderson said.
Technicians who will represent Colorado at “America’s Best” are Jack Pietraallo, bus technician at Falcon 49, and Jeff Pihl, bus inspector at Douglas County School District. Winners in the Conventional School Bus competition were (1st) Chris Fritz of Academy 20, (2nd) Gary Johnston of Cherry Creek Schools and (3rd) Les Lilly of Douglas County District RE-1. In the Transit category, winners were (1st) Jesse Hill of Academy 20, (2nd) Jennifer Thompson of Montrose First Student and (3rd) Christa Daskam of First Student #51. Earning top honors for Special Needs were (1st) Stephens and Sparks of Falcon #49, (2nd) Ingraham and Brown of Falcon #49 and (3rd) Lapen and Foster of Academy 20.
The competition began with a written test for all participants except Special Needs, who take it beforehand, and featured a rigorous driving course that tested perception and reaction. Anderson said surprise maneuvers included a diminishing clearance, serpentine lane and parallel parking. Everyone had to do a graded pre-trip inspection, she explained, and Technician and Special Needs entrants also completed a hands-on segment that featured an “emergency” scenario.
“It is not just a competition but is also a fantastic training tool. What they bring back is really invaluable to all the districts,” said Anderson, who added that attendance was up this year. “They are very serious about it — this is their one chance to really shine and to go to the national level to compete.”
The International Roadeo will take place July 16 and 17 in Baltimore, Md. For more information, visit NSTA’s Web site: www.yellowbuses.org. “America’s Best,” which is set for September in San Antonio, Texas, is North America’s premier skills competition for school bus technicians and inspectors. It draws contestants from all segments of the industry and from many states and Canadian provinces.