A team of Macon R-1 school bus drivers competed in the 41st School Bus Safety Competition held June 21 & 22 in Osage Beach. The team of Lori Kemp, Keith Maloney, and Darron Shrum also competed as individuals.
Maloney says he has attended as an individual several times in the past, but this was the first time that Macon drivers have competed as a team.
“Darron and I were in the rookie competition,” said Kemp. “It was fun, it really tests your skills.”
“It was a little intimidating being there for the first time,” said Shrum.
“It was very intimidating,” laughs Kemp.
Both agree they are ready to go back next year to try to better their scores.
“Now we have an idea of what to expect,” says Shrum.
Awards were presented to the top five teams. “The fifth place winners scored 1290 and our team scored 1207,” said Maloney.
A total of 69 individuals competed.
The competition was divided into two divisions: contracted drivers and school district employed drivers. Macon’s driver are employed by the district.
Maloney received a trophy as the top district employed driver. He placed third, overall, among both categories.
As a top winner he will advance to the International Competition on July 14 & 15 in Milwaukee, Wis.
Maloney said the first day of competition in Osage Beach consisted of a written test and effective bus test. There were 225 points possible and he received 178.
The written test covered information from the CDL manuel, Missouri Driver’s Guide and the American Red Cross.
“The effective bus test had six pre-planned defects that we had to find on a bus,” said Maloney. “I found five of them.
“When we got back inside we had a surprise question about how many feet an orange cone had been placed in front of the bus,” he said. “The answer was 15 feet, which is the safety zone. I was one of only 7 that got in right. Many of them said that they hadn’t even noticed the cone.”
The second day of competition focused on driving skills.
“We did not take a Macon bus to the competition,” Maloney said. “The Osage Beach bus that I drove wasn’t like any of the busses Macon owns.”
There were two styles of busses available, the conventional style and the snub nosed style. There were no passengers on the bus during the competition, but the drivers were to act as if they had children on board.
Maloney said that at least two judges were standing at each station. “They really scrutinized how we do,” he said.
Several different stations were set up to test the skills of the drivers.
Page 2 of 2 - Drivers had to back into a stall and have the back bumper within an allowed 12-inch free space.
They had to pull the bus toward a stop line and be within two inches without touching the barrier. They also had to pull in and park within six inches of a curb and parallel park within the same six-inch distance from the curb. Only two back-ups were allowed to parallel park.
“If you touch any of the cones or barriers you lose points,” he said.
Maloney felt like the most difficult task was driving between tennis balls that were set about two inches off the pavement. “They were set three inches wider than a pair of the rear duals and we had to drive the right side wheels through them without touching the balls.”
The competition also included making right hand corners, going over railroad crossings, driving through an off-set alley where the bus had to maneuver between cones that were two feet wider than the bus, and driving through a course path with diminishing widths.
Maloney is a 1977 graduate of Macon High School. He has been driving a Macon school bus for 31 years. “I am 53 years old and I have spent 43 of them at Macon R-1,” he laughs.
This is the sixth time that Maloney has attended the national competition. He said that in the past he has received information about what kind of bus he will be using before leaving for the competition.
“The competition will be stiff. There have been winners in the past with a perfect score,” he said. “If you want to be competitive there, you had better be good at what you do.”