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August 13, 2013  |   Comments (9)   |   Post a comment

Let's ditch the cowboy terms

It is imperative that the industry emphasize its relevance, its professionalism and its commitment to safety. Calling your transportation facility a “bus barn” does not suggest any of those things.

by Frank Di Giacomo - Also by this author


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When someone leaves a door open or otherwise exhibits bad manners, the time-honored reprimand is, “Were you raised in a barn?”

I’d like to propose a variation on that old question: “Do you work in a barn?”

The answer, of course, is no. You work in a professional pupil transportation facility with highly trained staff members who are dedicated to the safe and efficient transportation of students. Unless something goes terribly wrong, there are no chickens laying eggs in your office or goats chewing on spare parts in your shop.

So why are school bus terminals sometimes called “bus barns”? We still see the term pop up from time to time in news reports. In some cases, it could be the reporter’s own creative touch, but more likely it came from the person who was interviewed for the article — maybe a district official or a police spokesperson.

In fact, we do occasionally find examples of school districts clearly calling their own transportation facility a “bus barn.” We just spotted the term on the transportation page of a school district’s website.

We also found a recent news story about another district in which a school board member was quoted using not only “bus barn” but even “bull pen” — apparently referring to the fenced-in lot for the buses.  

I will admit that we’ve been guilty of letting “bus barn” slip into the pages of SBF in the past. But we’ll commit to stop using the term if you will.

Wild rides?
Along the same lines, I can’t help but question the use of the term “roadeo.” This one is still very commonly used for events in which school bus personnel demonstrate their first-rate driving skills and their knowledge of the critical responsibilities of their job.

I acknowledge that “roadeo” is a clever name (combining “road” and “rodeo”), but let’s take a closer look at the association it makes.

Rodeos are events in which cowboys ride bucking bulls and broncos, wrestle steers and race horses as fast as possible around barrels. They are by no means the safest of activities.

School bus driver competitions, on the other hand, are all about safety. They are opportunities to showcase the caution, precision and training involved in operating a large, yellow bus.

Many state and regional events are called “roadeos,” but the annual championship doesn’t use that term in its title: the School Bus Driver International Safety Competition.

Some states are using similar names. Those that aren’t should consider it. Calling your event a “safety competition” highlights the safety aspect, and it creates consistency with the international-level event.

Stay current
Especially in a time when school bus services are widely threatened by budget cuts, it is imperative that the industry emphasize its relevance, its professionalism and its commitment to safety.

Calling your school transportation facility a “bus barn” does not suggest any of those things.

Can we all agree to put the cowboy terminology, ahem, out to pasture?


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Read more about: public image, safety competition/roadeo

Here at USD 460 we use the term "bus barn" and "bull pen". It has nothing to do with cowboys or farm. It is a term to describe a location. What goes on inside that building is what is important. As for the rodeos ---the cowboys who perform there are some of the best in the world. It is an event that professional compete with the best of the best. It is no different for bus rodeos. Bus drivers are showing their skills to be the best of the best.

Feisal Jahay    |    Sep 16, 2013 07:06 AM

One of Merriam Webster's definition of 'barn' is "a large building for the housing of a fleet of vehicles (as trolley cars or trucks)" It is also partially defined as "...a shelter" I am proud to work at the 'Bus Barn' because it is a gathering place of wonderful people! It is a warm and welcoming shelter on cold winter mornings before the sun comes up and the buses head out. As for 'bus road-eo', it is exactly that...a place to exhibit the bus and driver's ability to manuever thru and around many obstacles. Get over yourselves, lighten up, have some fun....everything doesn't have to be politically correct all the time. Bus drivers are fun loving people! (PS--thank you Dan Johnson from northern AZ!)

debbie wheaton    |    Aug 30, 2013 02:57 PM

I appreciate everyone's views and opinions. I'm glad we did not attempt to talk about the many different shades of the paint color "white" there happens to be and which one of those we each like. We would be here all day talking about that one. To each their own. If you really wish to place the name of your facility out front of the building your work from. That way people will see if it is the school bus barn or the school transportation department. This will also help UPS and FEDex deliveries know where to drop off school bus supplies and parts employees order to maintain school buses. Me - I just look for a parking lot full of school buses and assume that is where the local school bus fleet facilities are located. Be thankful public school hasn't converted to home schooling on computers yet. Then we'll all be out of work anyway. Just alittle puns intended here and there all in fun. Be proud of the work you do in keeping the community school children safe no matter what building or facility you work from. Dan - Indiana.

Dan Luttrell    |    Aug 16, 2013 06:51 AM

For 34 years I have worked as a Motor Carrier Investigator with the Arizona Highway Patrol. I have been assigned to School Bus Inspections in Northern Arizona for eight years. I spent five years with an Infantry Unit prior to that working in a Motor Pool. These terms such as Bus rodeos, bus barns, inspection bays,Motor Carriers,Motor Pools were used by my Grandfather in WWI. Change the rest of the world and leave Arizona alone. The Navajos up north love there school bus rodeos

Dan Johnson    |    Aug 15, 2013 04:33 PM

I never liked the term of "hauling" kids. Similar to your article the term shold be transporting kids. We transport cattle not students...

Ray Trejo    |    Aug 15, 2013 02:44 PM

Well said. I know we sometimes dismiss these distinctions as semantics, but words, like body language, probably convey more impressions, incorrect or otherwise, than we realize, especially to those who don't work in our profession. As another example, I have been using the word "technician" instead of "mechanic" for many years now, because it more accurately conveys the complexity of the work and the training and experience that is required to inspect, diagnose, and repair today's vehicles. Many former "mechanics" like me have learned the hard way that knowing how to turn wrenches is only a small part of maintaining buses with computerized engine controls, multiplexed wiring and electronics, and many other advanced features.

Charlie Hood    |    Aug 15, 2013 12:30 PM

School Bus Fleet's editorials have consistently presented rational, thought provoking dialog that has both impressed and guided my thoughts for over two decades. This editorial is one more example toward helping me keep kids safe. We are what we think, or as an old book put it, "As A Man Thinketh, by James Allen." The 'trucker mentality' must be rejected for the mindset to fully perceive children as precious lives, not cargo. I'm mostly referring to management, especially corporate management, and government/industry agencies. The industry understands an advantage when thinking of children as cargo. It is essential that school bus drivers understand the advantage when thinking of children as 'Precious Lives.' "No duty is more urgent than that of returning thanks." ~ Attributed to James Allen

jkraemer    |    Aug 15, 2013 12:12 PM

Thank you,thank you,thank you. I was a Transportation Director in public school systems for 34 years and hated the term "bus barn". I always corrected anybody who used it by saying we didn't have any cows or sheep in our garage. Some people (even a superintendent)would give a hard time when I corrected them but I felt like I wasn't being respected when they said it. Thank you for bringing this subject up and letting me vent.

Monte Hawley    |    Aug 14, 2013 09:40 AM

Here at LAUSD, I've never heard of, nor have used, the term, "bus barn." I know other districts that do, and in my perception, they are the smaller districts which may have something to do with it. My district always uses the term [location]Bus Facility or [location] Lot. In my opinion, it doesn't reflect poorly on the level of professionalism of a district to call their lot a "bus barn" but rather reflects a home-spun and familiar approach to their industry. I say let's not be offenders for a word. If you don't like a particular terminology; don't use it.

Robert Turner    |    Aug 14, 2013 08:33 AM

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