School of the Osage Middle School welcomed Missouri bus drivers to their campus last week to participate in a skill-driven competition.
With wind and rain precipitating most of the event, drivers didn’t hesitate to show their abilities of transporting children safely in these same conditions.
The Missouri Association for Pupil Transportation (MAPT) held its annual School Bus Drivers Safety Competition June 18-19.
The 2015 event brought 10 schools from around the state of Missouri to participate in a the two-day challenge that included written testing, hands-on activities and behind-the-wheel driving tests.
The real skills were put to test Friday with the driving events that tested skills utilizing stanchions.
“This is what they do rain or shine,” said Tony Hatfield, School of the Osage transportation director as the wind picked up, blowing blinding rain for a period of time. “This is what they do.”
The competition challenges set in place included tests such as backing up as close as possible to the stanchion without hitting it or any part of the rope; a right turn challenge where a plate is in place with colored splashes and scoring then is based on how much of the plate gets covered and which color; an offset where the bus goes down one side and then turns right to go down another side without hitting the stanchions in place; backing into an area as if they are parallel parking and getting as close to the curb as possible; a straight line task where tennis balls are in place and the driver is to pull through a 28-inch area without knocking over any tennis balls; and driving through an area that gets smaller and smaller while avoiding hitting stanchions in place.
“It is not that they would parallel park or back up every day,” Hatfield said. “It just sharpens their skills, makes them use their mirrors and makes them more cautious and better drivers.”
Carol Woods, co-chair of the event, was pleased with the turnout this year as she reminisced about last year’s event in Springfield where they also fought weather conditions. However, she said, almost as a reminder, “This is what they drive in.”
Woods also shared all bus drivers are to have 40 hours behind-the-wheel training before being allowed to drive on their own. She said while it was not like a degree, there is extensive training, monthly safety meetings with organizations such as MAPT, annual meetings and individual school districts safety meetings for the drivers.
MAPT meetings aren’t just about reviewing safety. Woods said they do things like CPR and first aid training, driver workshops and invite speakers in to talk about mental health or just to provide some motivation.
Woods said this event not only lets them show their skills but also gets them practice. She said she first learned of the competition when she was an assistant director of transportation and knew she wanted to be involved.
Woods said the event started in Warrensburg 12 years ago at the university’s safety center, but then they decided to start moving it school district to district. With this year’s location at Osage, she was quite pleased. Hatfield said School of the Osage wanted to be involved this year so he offered their location since it is a central area.
Having held the competition in Independence the last two years, Woods said participation was down.
“I don’t know if that is why it is down,” Woods said, referring to the location, “but we are really going to promote it this year. We are getting more directors involved and I have talked with our vendors about helping talk it up when they visit their customers.
“By far, even though it is raining, this has been a fantastic competition!”
Woods added, “What better way to promote school bus safety. These are some of the top drivers in our state right here and they work hard; they study, they practice.”
According to the MAPT website, the MAPT is a statewide organization which recognizes that pupil transportation is a basic contributor to an effective educational program. They are committed to the continued improvement of all aspects of this specialized educational service and work on objectives to continually improve the safety, efficiency and economy of pupil transportation. For more information, visit their website at www.moapt.org.