Cobleskill-Richmondville bus drivers literally rolled to victory in state driving competition last month.
Three C-R drivers––Denny Tilison, Bill VanSteenburg and Paula Shufelt––placed in the top 10 in the New York Association for Pupil Transportation Road-eo held July 14 in Saratoga.
Facing 38 other top school-bus drivers from around the state, Mr. Tilison finished first, Mr. VanSteenburg sixth and Ms. Shufelt 10th.
Mr. Tilison will advance to national competition in Texas next July.
In regional competition in June, the trio swept the three top spots with Mr. VanSteenburg first, Ms. Shufelt second and Mr. Tilison third.
In both regional and state contests, drivers––using the larger school bus, of course––had to parallel park, K turn and complete an obstacle course, among other tasks.
One test was “diminishing alley,” which requires drivers to steer a bus down an alley with three inches’ leeway on either side; the leeway shrinks to one inch.
A written test was also part of the competition.
“They made it tougher for us,” Mr. Tilison said. “The written test was different.”
“The farther you go, the tougher it gets,” Mr. VanSteenburg said.
Though the Road-eo stresses friendly competition, its purpose is to stress safety.
“It’s the stuff we do during the period of a day,” Mr. Tilison said. “It really sharpens our skills all over.”
But it’s not easy, either. Two judges sit in the bus while the driver competes.
“I was nervous before, really nervous,” Ms. Shufelt said. “You’re being put on the spot. But I wasn’t nervous this year. I just did it.”
This is Mr. Tilison’s eighth year of competition. Ms. Shufelt has been in it six years, and Mr. VanSteenburg, four. After seeing what the contest is like the first few years, they’ve gotten hungry.
“After so many years, we have a different attitude now,” Mr. VanSteenburg said, with Mr. Tilison adding, “It’s supposed to be fun, but we want to win.”
They’ve proven they can. C-R drivers have won the regionals two of the last three years. In 2010, C-R’s Laura Rickard won the states, and Mr. Tilison added his state title this year.
“It used to be that we were aiming at other teams,” Mr. VanSteenburg said proudly. “Now they’re aiming at us.”