Sherry Harris of Fayette County Public Schools, located about 25 miles south of Atlanta, won the Georgia School Bus Driver Safety Competition. For the first time the event featured propane-autogas buses.
Hall County Schools and Appling County Schools supplied the 2013 model-year, 72-passenger Blue Bird Visions. They were equipped with automatic six-speed Ford transmissions and a Ford 6.8L engine with the Roush CleanTech propane-autogas fuel system. Air brakes and air doors were selected for the driver portion of the state safety Roadeo, which is produced by the Pupil Transportation Safety Competition Foundation.
The inspection portion of the driver competition used 72-passenger, model-year 2011 IC buses equipped with automatic transmissions, the ISB 6.7 Cummins diesel engines, air brakes and air doors.
Wiley Crews, president of the nonprofit Pupil Transportation Safety Competition Foundation and transportation director for Brantley County Schools, said the annual Georgia Pupil Transportation Safety Competition provides champion drivers an opportunity to display and further refine their skills.
"Drivers take this competition very seriously and the intense competition is palpable," he added. "For school bus drivers, student safety is the number one priority, and these dedicated drivers reaffirm this commitment throughout the competition."
The foundation organizes the annual competition, providing drivers with safety training, increasing public awareness of the skills and responsibilities of bus drivers and encouraging networking and communication between drivers all over the state.
Georgia school bus drivers are required by state law to perform pre- and post-trip inspections, which were tested during inspection portion of the competition that took place on June 5. Drivers also completed written exams. The behind-the-wheel driving competition was held the following day at Veterans High School in Kathleen, Ga. Harris beat out 62 other drivers in qualifiing for the International School Bus Driver Safety Competition held July 21 during next the NSTA Annual Meeting and Convention in Tulsa, Okla. Second-place finisher Michael Graham of Cobb County Public Schools, also qualified. Graham won last year's Georgia Roadeo and placed 10th in the 2012 International Safety Competition.
Rounding out this year's top 10 drivers were: 3rd Place: Larry Richardson, Colquitt County (third place); Connie Beatenbough, Floyd County; Jennifer Wortham, Screven County; Bob Montgomery, Cobb County; Melanie Paulin, Bartow County; Neil McBrayer, Forsyth County; Tommy Sams, Bibb County; and Mike Dixon, Fayette County.
"Each day, school bus drivers across Georgia transport thousands of school children with one common objective, safety. School bus drivers are the first school official a child sees each morning and the last person at the end of the school day", said Phil Horlock, president and CEO of Blue Bird Corporation. "Blue Bird recognizes the valuable role that school bus drivers perform and thank them for their hard work and dedication. The Georgia Pupil Transportation Safety Competition is an effective tool in further supporting safe driving practices and student safety skills with school bus drivers. Blue Bird and our Georgia dealer, Yancey Bus Sales, are proud to be supporters of this annual competition."
Blue Bird said its propane-autogas school buses provide annual fuel savings of approximately $3,000 to $3,500 per bus.