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Chapel Hill Transit hosts driving competition

Photo: Chapel Hill Transit hosts driving competition (Melissa Key)
Roxanne Evans of the Triangle Transit judges the passenger stop portion of the Rodeo bus driver obstacle course competition.

Chapel Hill Transit driver Larry Villines frantically checked between the side mirrors and the windshield of his bus as he backed it between orange cones, under the watchful gaze of three judges in the back timing and marking his every move.

Villines was concentrating on steering through an obstacle course in the annual Regional Bus and Van Roadeo, held Sunday morning at the Chapel Hill Transit facility.

Bus and van operators were tested on their ability to demonstrate safe and efficient methods of public transportation.

Dwight Butler, safety and training coordinator for the town and chairman of the regional “roadeo” committee, said the competition helps the transit system maintain quality and motivate drivers.

“We are able to see who the best operators are, how the transit system trains its operators and what we can do to make the systems work better,” Butler said.

Chapel Hill Transit and 10 other transit systems from the region participated, including Triangle Transit and Durham Area Transit Authority.

Drivers come for the fun, the competitive atmosphere and the chance to win money at a national level competition.

“It boosts morale, and the overall winner gets bragging rights for the year,” Butler said.

The competition awarded a first, second and third place winner in three vehicle categories. Drivers also took a written exam on emergency management and procedures for fire or evacuation.

The overall winner out of the three categories proceeds to a state-level and then national-level competition.

Chapel Hill Transit driver Lafayette Poteat participated again this year after going to the national competition last year.

“Nationals was great, the competition was much higher,” Poteat said. “But we’re all here for a full chance to brush up on skills and meet other operators.”

Judges were scattered throughout the course, measuring various parts of the test.

Tony Means, superintendent of operations at Fayetteville Area System of Transit, judged drivers’ ability to navigate a narrow lane lined with tennis balls.

“It’s an efficient and effective way to measure the operators’ performances, on and off route,” Means said.

Fayetteville driver Louis Tellersen has been driving for two years but took a position as one of the judges to observe the serpentine portion of the course, where the driver must weave in between cones. He said the competition helps drivers learn to deal with problems caused by other cars.

“Sometimes an amateur driver can become an obstacle,” Tellersen said. “Operators need to know what to do in those situations.”

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