Something about a bus…

I got my CDL (Commercial Driver License) in 1998, shortly after graduating from high school. I was hired at Kent State’s Campus Bus Service, and drove as a student all four years of undergrad college.

No doubt, one of the best part-time jobs available at the time, and with an employer who really understood the “student first” mentality. “Got a final to take? No problem. We’ll reschedule your shift.”

Driving a bus is not only rewarding in so many ways, it grants you entry into the world of professional drivers. A different crowd, to be sure, bus drivers and truck drivers speak a different language, get up earlier than you each morning, and know what it’s like to scrape the windshield in zero-degree temps before heading out on the route.

It’s a rough but rewarding job. And physically demanding, too. Maneuvering a bus takes skill, stamina, and eye-hand-foot-other-hand coordination of a different kind.

Bus drivers, particularly school bus drivers, know how to read the road, and operate their signals, brakes, levers, and buttons – all while driving in the dark, and with an extremely high safety record.

Driving a bus stays with you in your core, and ever since I started doing laps on the Campus Loop in a Gillig Phantom back in the day, I’ve been connected somehow to the profession. In my last year at Kent, I subbed for Stow and added my school bus endorsement.

Now I arrange regional ROAD-E-Os for drivers all over Northeast Ohio, flip buses on their side for fire training, and speak at conferences about transportation stuff.

I tell this story when people want to know…

When I started working in my current district, I “made the mistake” of letting the Superintendent know I had a CDL. When the Transportation Department needed leadership, I was chosen to pick up the pieces, and get it running right.

I drove plenty during that time – as a substitute when a drivers called off, taking athletic teams to games, and so on. I quickly learned, and got pretty good at, the office stuff, too.

Of course, it wasn’t a mistake. Just a new challenge. A new door to opportunity.

Routing, student management, state reports, inventory, fuel treatment, HR stuff, union grievances, driver development, capital expenditures, and so on… it’s certainly not a dance on roses, and it’s not glorious. It’s early mornings, late afternoons, and weekend coverage 24/7.

School bus drivers typically work multiple jobs, drive as much as they can, and do it all for little pay and no recognition. “How do the kids get to school?” I ask teachers all the time. “Not sure…”

In the past few years, I’ve started advocating at the state level, too, for our public school bus drivers. I’ve been active with the Ohio School Boards Association and hold a Director at Large seat with the Ohio Association for Pupil Transportation.

Sharing the message with others about what happens in the bus garage at 5 AM is no small task. School transportation is often treated as its own entity, tucked away on an island in the middle of nowhere in a school district or outsourced altogether.

Now, our Transportation department reports to me, and I work with a wonderful staff there that makes the day-to-day operations run as smoothly as ever. Even better, some might say, and I agree. 😉

Our team connects with our principals and teachers like never before, truly partnering in student management and discipline issues, work with parents to resolve disputes, and accommodates for student needs each day in a way no one thought possible. We can always do more, and are always looking to improve. It’s a good place to be.

I can now leverage our drive team with other teams on campus to create experiences for our students, staff, and community members. Need a field trip with bagged lunches to-go? No problem…

At the heart of this operation lies our people.

You want something done with precision and skill on a rainy Saturday morning in the cold? Call a school bus driver. They’ll show up. They’ll get you where you need. Every time. On-time.

This year I’ve held a CDL for 25 years. I’ve driven thousands of hours (no joke) in Class B vehicles – the Gillig Phantom, MCI Coach Buses, and Bluebird, IC, and Thomas school buses. I’ve driven box trucks, the Army’s HMMWV, deuce-and-a-half, 5-ton, Bradley Fighting Vehicle, and yes, an M1 Tank… what’s next?

Once you can take the largest vehicle on the street around town safely, there’s nothing that can stop you. Literally.

I’ll never forget CJ screaming, “Are you sure it’s gonna fit!?” as we approached a small bridge on an even smaller country road somewhere in Portage County while on a bus tour with me. “I guess we’re about to find out!” I shouted back over the roaring diesel engine.

Interested? We’re always hiring. I’ll train you, too!