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VVTA challenges drivers at annual competition
Bucking broncos were not on the schedule for the 2013 Victor Valley Transit Authority Bus Rodeo held Sunday at the Stater Bros. Stadium parking lot in Adelanto.
The competition brought bus drivers from all over the Victor Valley together for an opportunity to win a spot in the National Bus Rodeo held in Indianapolis in May.
“This is a bragging event for our drivers,” said Simon Herrera, general manager for Veolia Transportation, the company that contracts with the VVTA. “They compete against each other and the one who comes in first place has a chance to represent Victor Valley Transit Authority. It’s a huge thing for us.”
The 2013 champion is Shelly Akers, who finished with a total of 484 points on Sunday.
Akers is known to be a natural at driving large vehicles — which may have something to do with the fact that she has 10 children of her own. This was her first bus rodeo.
“I love it. I think it’s so fun,” Akers said. “I hope we do this every year. There’s some really good competition. ... The part I was happy about was I usually take out those barrels in practice, but I didn’t take any out (on Sunday).”
The VVTA’s inaugural bus rodeo took place in 2010. Sunday’s rodeo ran for roughly eight hours with 43 participants. Each bus operator tackled 11 different obstacles, including navigating directional turns, turning while backing up, rear-dual clearance, curbside passenger pickup and more.
Participants are timed and each operator starts with a score of 700 points. As they maneuver through the course, points are deducted when they knock over cones or do not meet the standards required.
In order to compete, drivers may not have any attendance or disciplinary infractions and must have a clean record with no accidents, according to Herrera.
“Some (drivers) have been really looking forward to this,” Craig Barnes, operations planner, said. “I’ve heard some say, ‘I’m going to win.’ ”
Herrera said there had been practice sessions over the past two weeks.
Akers has spent four years as a bus operator for the VVTA. Her current route has her driving throughout Hesperia and Victorville. She said it’s about a 3 1/2-hour drive that she completes at least twice during a shift, sometimes three times.
“I love passengers, getting to know people,” Akers said. “I just love operating the bus, being able to know I can do something and feel an accomplishment from it.”
Another first-time participant, Rachel Beaver, started off driving school buses before moving to the Victor Valley and becoming a public transportation driver. She’s been a bus operator for more than 10 years.
“I think (the competition) is exciting and I’m a little nervous, but this is fun,” Beaver said. “I’m glad to be here and be a part of it.”
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