Palliser bus drivers put skills to the test

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TIGHT SQUEEZE: The blue barrels give the driver just an inch of clearance on either side of the bus.

 Division’s first school bus ‘roadeo’ raises nearly $300 for Fort McMurray

Ten Palliser Regional Schools’ bus drivers put their skills to the test in a “roadeo” obstacle course challenged their judgment of distance, following of safety rules and knowledge of bus parts and practices.

Transportation Services Supervisor David Shaw started the Saturday event with a walk-through of the course, set up in a parking lot behind Palliser’s Lethbridge offices.

The competition included a “curb line event,” giving drivers just over two bus lengths of space to pull in parallel to a curb, ideally leaving just six to 12 inches between the bus tires and the curb. Two of the toughest elements were games of inches. In the straight line event, drivers had to manoeuvre the dual, rear passenger wheels of the bus between two rows of tennis balls aligned just three inches wider than the wheels themselves. In the diminishing clearance test, drivers had to drive between a series of pylons in a path that gradually gets narrower, ending between two barrels with just an inch of clearance on either side of the bus.

KC Marten, who’d previously competed provincially in similar events, set up the course, and her years of experience showed in her top marks. Placing first wasn’t the best part of the day.

“The most important thing is everyone got together and had fun,” she said.

Marten referred to second-place finisher Larry Modney as “her prize student.” She trained Modney when he started driving for Palliser in the Coaldale area this year and he finished the event just five points out of top spot.

Finishing in third was Sara Dyck, who is in her 12th year of driving to Barons School.

“I was pretty nervous getting in there, but it was fun,” Dyck said.

Shaw said he hopes Saturday’s event will grow over time, as word spreads about the fun drivers had.

“It’s a relaxed way to see how your driving ability stacks up to the course,” Shaw said, adding some of the obstacles look deceivingly easy, but are much less so when navigating a 70-passenger bus.

Shaw sold 50-50 tickets in the days leading up to the roadeo, raising $285 toward a GoFundMe page ( in support of 13 school bus drivers who lost homes to the Fort McMurray fire.

Watching school bus drivers navigating the inferno to drive students and school staff to safety was impressive, he said.

“It shows you that bus drivers’ main priority is their students,” he said. “They’re all family. . . It was amazing watching them drive through that.”

Palliser Regional Schools operates 59 routes daily across Lethbridge County and Vulcan County and offers charter bus service to community groups.