My journey to become a certified school bus driver — part 4

Bill Lehman
Posted on May 23, 2013
Author Bill Lehman says that once he became comfortable with parallel parking a school bus, he felt confident that he could get through the DMV test.

Author Bill Lehman says that once he became comfortable with parallel parking a school bus, he felt confident that he could get through the DMV test.

Bill Lehman is a school bus driver for Queen Creek (Ariz.) Unified School District #95. In this five-part series, he shares his longtime desire to become a bus driver and the path that brought him to the industry.

In part 1, he writes about his first experiences on a school bus as a student. In part 2, he writes about interviewing for a position at Queen Creek Unified School District #95 and the preliminary steps needed to become a school bus driver. In part 3, Lehman writes about passing the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division air brake test, obtaining his CDL permit and undergoing behind-the-wheel training.  

In this segment of the series, Lehman writes about undergoing more behind-the-wheel training and becoming familiar with the components inside and underneath a school bus.

The following week, I was back in another Blue Bird transit-style bus with Chanie Passerby, fleet service assistant and trainer, and she had me drive to a large housing development to practice left and right turns. There were construction cones on both sides of the road.  

Chanie could tell I was very nervous. She reminded me that the bus I was driving was exactly the same width as a car, and she reminded me to relax.

When we returned, Marsha Stones, lead trainer, and I walked through all the parts of the engine compartment, and while I did OK, I was still a long way off from having picked up everything I needed to know. Marsha then added the inside of the bus, with dozens more items that I would need to memorize for the pre-trip. With word association and hitting the study material every night, I was determined to remember everything I would need to know.  

The next day I was back with trainer Jim Murphy, who, besides doing a lot of lane changes, spent a lot of time with me doing simulated student pickup and drop-offs, and we went to all the schools in our district so that I would know where to pick up and drop off students.   

I found that spreading out the training was working. I could properly recall the classroom training while having ample time to study the pre-trip and put into practice what I had been taught behind the wheel.

The third week, Carolyn Gaebler, trainer and route coordinator, put me through the paces of lane changes and turns. The highlight was stopping at a convenience store to grab a soft drink. I told her I wasn’t sure I could make the necessary turns into the parking lot. She assured me that I could, and much to my surprise, I accomplished the task, but was glad I had the air conditioning on; otherwise, I would have broken out in a cold sweat. On our way back, Carolyn found a long construction zone for me to navigate through, but unlike before, I was not nervous and was now feeling a lot more comfortable behind the wheel.

Marsha and Chanie then took me through the skills course. Although I was nervous, I found I had little difficulty on offset or parallel parking. I then had to recite the engine compartment and bus interior. Marsha added the air brake test, and I was most comfortable with that since we had gone over it in the classroom. The final pre-trip step was learning the components underneath the bus. As Marsha painstakingly took me through each part, she gave me a lot of helpful hints for how to remember them.  

A few days later, I was back with Chanie to learn mountain road driving and to go through anything else I wanted more practice on. When we returned to the yard, Marsha and I went through the pre-trip, and I knocked out the engine compartment, interior and brake test with only a few errors.

We then went back to the skills course. After my first failed attempt at parallel parking, I found my frustration level rising, as on the second attempt I did worse than the first. Marsha pulled me aside and after we talked through it, I discovered that I was overthinking how to park instead of using basic backing skills. Once she showed me the easy way to park, I was back to being myself and knew that I could get through the DMV test.

Part 5, the final segment of Lehman’s article, is available online here.

Related Topics: Arizona

Comments ( 1 )
  • Rhonda Schlack

     | about 5 years ago

    I am a driver, and have been for 15 years. Every driver at our district must complete the Eaton Proving Grounds course with a school bus. It is in Michigan. You must try it before you end your article!!!!

More Stories

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!