Motorcoach drivers from Astro Travel and Tours of Tallahassee, Florida, competed in a bus “roadeo” to test their driving skills on Dec. 11 at the Tallahassee Community College campus.
Drivers competed at seven skill stations that included parallel parking, backing right turns and other basic skills. Each driver was graded on how close they could come to barriers without hitting any. With a 45-foot motorcoach, that’s no easy task.
Astro Travel and Tours President CEO Matt Brown said holding roadeos like this is one way the company invests in its employees.
“As the company’s owner, I truly feel that the most important asset we can and should invest in is our people,” he said. “These operators are tasked with driving $600,000 vehicles with 56 passengers on board into cities, tourist attractions and stadiums, so training and practice should be of the utmost importance.”
The company’s drivers welcomed the opportunity to show off their skills, company executive Kurt Woodward said.
“I received nothing but positive feedback throughout the day. I also have received calls from our drivers all begging for another shot at the course now that they’ve run it.”
A productive challenge
Brown said the course was challenging but fun for the drivers to navigate.
“Some drivers laughed and some got frustrated, but overall, it was just a fantastic team-building experience.”
Woodward said drivers also appreciated the review they received after taking the written exam portion of the roadeo.
“It was eye-opening for a few to revisit the rules and best practices that come along with being a professional motorcoach operator,” Woodward explained. “We had some really great moments after the pre-trip exam, when some of our more experienced drivers were able to show some of our newer team members how they approached that portion of the test.”
And learning is what a roadeo like this is all about.
“This event really highlighted our need to focus on right-hand turning and tail swing,” Brown said. “So, moving into the new year, we will certainly incorporate more focus on these two areas during our onboarding period.
Woodward said the results of the roadeo surprised him.
“We had two drivers with less than a year of experience at Astro post some of the best scores for the driving portion,” he explained. “After we complete the addition to our current parking lot, my plan is to invest in some cones, barrels, tennis balls and PVC pipes and begin setting up these obstacles for training purposes.”
Top driver John Russell was awarded a cash prize and a fully paid trip to Raleigh, North Carolina, for the United Motorcoach Association’s International Driver Roadeo in February. Kevin Griffin came in second place, and Brian “Mr. B” Bellamy placed third.
Astro Travel and Tours is a member of the United Motorcoach Association, which allowed them to borrow the UMA Bus Roadeo Trailer.
“Thanks to the generosity of our member company, Krapf Coaches from Pennsylvania, UMA has a trailer with all the equipment necessary to support a driver competition, and we allow members and partners to borrow the equipment for their own event,” explained UMA President and CEO Scott Michael.
“We encourage all state and regional associations to find ways to recognize their top performers, and a driver competition, or roadeo, is a great way to do that,” Michael added.
The company also hired Mark Szyperski, President/CEO of On Your Mark Transportation LLC, to plan and run the roadeo.
“This course that Mark and his team set up was just phenomenal,” Brown said. “The attention to detail regarding exact placements of cones, barrels and other obstacles made the course super challenging but also fun for our team to try to navigate each obstacle.”
On Your Mark Transportation is a consulting firm in the ground transportation industry. The firm puts on driver roadeo programs for companies, as well as state and regional associations.