By VANESSA JUNKIN
The Daily Times of Salisbury
SALISBURY, Md. (AP) — Instead of cowboys or cowgirls, the participants in a Roadeo held Sunday were Shore Transit employees. And the competitors didn’t hop onto animals, but instead into the driver’s seats of buses.
Each driver made his or her way through a tight obstacle course, trying to steer clear of barrel-shaped and pointy orange cones, and in one challenge, tennis balls on the ground. Among the maneuvers were turning and backing up.
Competitors also completed a pre-trip inspection of a bus that had certain things intentionally wrong with it, and loaded and secured a wheelchair passenger into a bus. The Roadeo was held in the parking lot of the Tri-County Council for the Lower Eastern Shore of Maryland Multi-Purpose Building in Salisbury.
In addition to losing points for mistakes such as hitting a cone, speed also factors into the driver’s final score, according to Deputy Transit Director Brad Bellacicco. Judges in neon-yellow shirts were at each area of the competition.
This year’s winner — Brandon Parsons, a Shore Transit dispatcher — is set to represent Shore Transit in the Transportation Association of Maryland’s statewide Roadeo on April 20 in Elkridge, Md.
Parsons is 2-for-2 in the Shore Transit Roadeo, having also won in 2010.
The statewide competition is one reason the local Roadeo is held, said Michael Pennington, executive director of the Tri-County Council, of which Shore Transit is a division.
“It also works as a nice opportunity for our folks to get together in a friendly environment, have some time together, also practice their skills and learn how important safety is while they’re driving the bus,” Pennington said.
Drivers don’t get to practice on the course, he said, but they did get a walk-through before the competition began.
Melvin Lambert, a driver who does medical runs for Shore Transit, just came to support the drivers but was talked into participating. He ended up winning third place.
He said the Roadeo allows participants to compare what they do while they’re being judged on the course to what they do on the job.
“It certainly challenges your driving ability,” Lambert said.
Fixed-route driver Carolyn Long, who’s been participating since the first local Roadeo, took second place at this year’s event.
“You’re focused on what you have to do; you’re not focused on winning. You really don’t see anybody on the course, you just see cones and barrels,” Long said. “And then when it’s over with, you’re relieved that it’s over, because it’s a time frame, everything’s timed.”
Long said she enjoyed seeing the administrators there and seeing everyone in a good mood, because the job can be stressful at times. But she said it’s a good place to work.
“We’re all like a big family,” Long said. “And we just go in every day and get the job done and be as safe as we can.”
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)