By Greg Price
Teri Unruh watched the wheels on the bus go round and round — all the way to a second-place finish at the provincial bus rodeo earlier this month in High River.
“It’s a bunch of events put together to evaluate a driver’s ability to drive their bus through certain situations, like an obstacle course,” said Unruh. “To begin with, there is a written test with your knowledge of road rules and procedural rules. They then do a pre-trip test, checking your bus inside and out. Most of the driving tests are timed which is the competitive part of it. There’s left and right turns, student pick-up.”
Unruh has been driving bus for seven years with First Student Canada, driving in Vauxhall. She was up against 61 bus drivers at provincials.
Unruh qualified for provincials after being one of the top three drivers from every branch from a company bus rodeo back in May.
Besides the accolade of the silver-medal finish at bus rodeo provincials, Unruh noted the satisfaction her job gives her in getting close to the children she drives safely to school every Monday to Friday.
“I love the driving. People tend to get the wrong idea thinking, ‘How can you drive a bus with a bunch of screaming kids?’ But we actually have so few of those. They are very enjoyable,” said Unruh. “You get to know them, they become your family. You know them in the community and you follow them growing up. When you drive the same route all the time, I know all my families and I’ve been to everybody’s house. You get to know when something isn’t right or they are unhappy with something going on, and you take that into account when driving. It’s not just driving the bus, I know that sounds kind of corny, but the kids do become part of your life.”
Getting those strong connections with the kids she drives, it drives her crazy when the drivers around her do not know the rules of the road to ensure student safety on bus routes.
“We are always looking for more drivers, whether it is spares or full-time drivers because of the turnover. It’s a nice part-time job for stay-at-home moms,” said Unruh. “But, when they do come in for training, they become a professional driver. They have more skills than just anybody on the road. They are taught more intensive rules. It makes you much more aware even driving your own personal vehicle. I am still amazed at how many people still do not realize that when we (buses) have our red lights on, that you can’t drive by us, it gets frustrating. You come into our boardroom and you hear stories, you see the videos on YouTube — it’s scary.”
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