Community High School hosts bus rodeo skills event

16 July 2013

FORT KENT - On Tuesday, June 25, the Maine Association for Pupil Transportation held a Bus Rodeo in Fort Kent, testing drivers’ skills in a friendly competitive format. Bus drivers from throughout Aroostook County attended.


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The purpose of the event was to challenge the operating skills of school bus drivers in a way that promoted safety and improved driving practices.

There were six components that made up the skills competition.   

Pre-trip inspection: Organizers planted five “defects” on buses used in the competition. Drivers had five minutes to identify to inspectors what those defects were. At the end of the competition, inspectors informed drivers that a sixth unannounced defect, a “bomb,” should also have been found.


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    Decreasing clearance: Drivers attempted to leave all cones in the course standing. Organizers placed sets of them so that there was clearance on either side of the bus that decreased from six inches to one inch.

    Tennis balls: Drivers maneuvered the bus so that the rear, double wheels traveled between two lines of tennis balls set 12 inches apart. Any ball knocked off counted as deductions from the driver’s final score.

    Off-set alley: Drivers steered the bus through tight turns of two sets of four cones, offset from each other, without knocking down any of them. Each cone had a point value of 21, 14, or seven. The outer most right-hand cone and the left-hand cone were worth seven points.


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    Curb line: Drivers demonstrated proper procedure for parking at a curb or stopping in a safe place, making sure to use turn signals to notify any vehicle that could have been following the bus of the driver’s intentions.

    Stop line: Drivers attempted to stop the bus within two inches of a stop-arm, like one found at a railroad crossing; organizers graded them on how accurately they judged the distance to the stop-arm.

Along with the skills competition, rodeo organizers held five Safe & Secure workshops. Workshop titles included: ABCs of Pre-Trip and Post-Trip Inspections; Student Discipline; Teaching Students ABCs of Riding the Bus; Dealing with Outside Interruptions; and Buster Training.


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Buster is a tool that qualified instructors can use to teach bus safety to students. There are three “Buster buses” in the state of Maine. SAD 27, along with six other participating schools, was able to purchase a used model at a reduced cost of $7,000.

Transportation Director Peter Saucier and Jolene Gardiner are trained in using Buster for demonstrations to students, and will be speaking on at schools in the area.

Ninety bus drivers registered for the day’s Safety Conference/Bus Rodeo, and 60 drivers took part in the skills competition. Winners for the day’s events included:


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1st Place: Fred Patterson, RSU 39 (Caribou, Limestone, Stockholm)

2nd Place: Rodney Bourgoin, RSU 39 (Caribou, Limestone, Stockholm)

3rd Place: Brian Pelletier, RSU 39 (Caribou, Limestone, Stockholm)


1st Place: Gerald Turcott, RSU 39 (Caribou, Limestone, Stockholm)

2nd Place: Ricky Labbe, SAD 27 (Fort Kent)

3rd Place: Austin Dufour, SAD 20 (Fort Fairfield)