Bus maintenance roadeos gain popularity
By Glenn Swain
From May 20-24, some of the best of transit bus maintenance will gather in Memphis, TN for the annual American Public Transportation Association’s International Roadeo.
While a sluggish economy has adversely affected budgets for many motorcoach associations and transit companies, bus and mechanic roadeos are still flourishing around the U.S.
The idea of competition between employees within a company or against industry rivals dates back to the Industrial Revolution. Today, drivers and mechanics in the bus industry match wits with their colleagues as the number of industry roadeos increases throughout North America.
During bus roadeos, drivers face not only a challenging obstacle course under the observance of picky judges, but also a written exam on new rules of the road and a refresher on old regulations. Often speakers are brought in to speak to drivers, along with various training sessions.
Motorcoach associations and transit agencies are willing to shoulder the expense to either host roadeo events or send drivers and mechanics to compete.
“We stress that our drivers study up on rules and regulations; bus roadeos are a way to make it fun and for them to gain knowledge from the test and the obstacle course,” said David Parham, owner of Ionosphere Tours in Anderson, SC. “Every bus driver thinks they are good, but when they go down and actually do a roadeo it quickly lets them know how good they are.”
Ionosphere has one of the best in Geoff McCorquodale, who has driven nine years with the company. McCorquodale won Best Overall Driver in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 11. In 2007 he placed second.
“The course is pretty challenging, it does test my skills,” McCorquodale said. “The written exams are based on information that all drivers should know because most are taking out of the federal safety manual. For me it’s a refresher, and I learn something every year when I go.”
On June 7, the North Carolina Motorcoach Association will host one of the most anticipated bus roadeos at the Charlotte Motor Speedway. For months Lee Helms, one of the organization’s board of directors, has been busy securing the unique venue. Helms said he expects up to 40 or more drivers to compete.
Michael Grady, a driver for King Country Metro in Seattle, WA, started competing in roadeos in 1983. He has won seven local roadeos, three regional invitationals, four state evens and was a national grand champion in 2004.
“Our program has a lot of depth,” Grady said. “I’ve technically won more roadeos than anybody, but it’s not uncommon for me to get beaten by my own people. That’s one of the reasons our program is so strong. There’s a lot of competition, but we work together.”
Roadeo events also bring workers and management closer together.
“This is one of the very rare things where management is absolutely 100 percent standing behind us and helping accomplish goals,” Grady added. “The roadeos have a positive affect on everyone.” BR