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No, Not a Rodeo, a ROADeo

No, Not a Rodeo, a ROADeo
Posted on 07/17/2018

Jeffco bus driver Ann Schall smiles as she prepares for the 20-mph speed test at Jeffco's inaugural "ROADeo" event in Lakewood.Don’t expect to find ropers and riders when you spell your rodeo, r-o-a-d-e-o. However, you will find bright yellow school buses and eager school bus drivers and assistants ready to show off their hard-won skills at the Jeffco Public Schools bus training facility next to Jeffco Stadium in Lakewood. This was Jeffco’s first ROADeo, a friendly safety competition with bragging rights and shiny trophies as prizes.

“It’s pride. It’s a great way for us to come out together, connect, have a fun time. Awesome day for it,” said Jeffco’s Executive Director of Transportation, Greg Jackson. “It’s a great opportunity not just for me but for the training team, where they get to see the skills that the people do every day on the road.”

The competition mirrored what Jeffco school bus drivers face every time they come to work, starting with a safety check, known as a pre-trip. Only this one came with a twist.

“We make it fun, the pre-trip. We do some crazy things like put bottles between the duals, take off the oil cap, or things like that that wouldn’t normally happen,” explained Transportation Training Supervisor DaNaye Gettel.

Then, the competitors moved on to a 20 mile-per-hour sprint, even though it seemed like the buses went a lot faster.

“It’s actually caught a lot of people’s attention, trying to see who can get up to 20 miles-per-hour the fastest and maintain it, get to the end, and brake on time,” said Jackson. “With the new technology we have with these new buses, especially with these air brakes, we have quicker stopping distances.”

Navigating through cones came next, before moving on to a simulated railroad crossing, with a utility cart as a locomotive. Then came removing a mannequin with realistic bodyweight to test a driver’s emergency evacuation knowledge.

“We do some backing and some different maneuvers that happen every day,” said Gettel. “The goal is to test your skills and improve your skills.”

It was time for Ann Schall’s turn. She’s been a Jeffco bus driver for ten years and was eager to get started. The pre-trip was a breeze until she discovered she’s been assigned one of Jeffco’s newer buses.

“Trying to get the dimensions, mentally. Normally I drive a transit, or the older buses, I kind of have those mentally measured,” said Schall.

But this veteran got it all figured out, and she was soon chomping at the bit for the sprint. She nailed it, along with the other course components, despite having a clipboard-toting judge by her side the entire time. As much fun as she had as a competitor, she’s hoping the Jeffco ROADeo might lead to a better appreciation of the challenges of being a school bus driver, and the skills required to do it right.

“We do care a lot about our students. We do care that we get everything done safely without any accidents. We love what we do. I know it sounds crazy,” said Schall. “Every day we come in and it’s a different encounter. We may have to put chains on the bus. We may be sliding around on the ice. We may have 60 kids that don’t want to sit in their seats. Somehow we manage to get through the day and everybody’s safe.”

See the JPS-TV version of this story below or here.

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