Updated: 07/12/2014 6:34 PM
Created: 07/12/2014 6:28 PM WDIO.com
When you hear rodeo you probably think of bulls or horses, but the Duluth Transit Authority wants you to think bus. The Minnesota State Bus Roadeo is in town to find out who is the best driver in the state.
Buses weren't bucking like broncos, but drivers said winding their way through obstacles with 30,000 pounds behind the wheel is just as challenging. Their dedication to the craft shows their pride in getting passengers safely around town.
Orange cones filled the parking lot of the Duluth Heritage Sports Center on Saturday. They make for a tight squeeze as bus drivers navigate within inches to score points for the roadeo competition.
“It sharpens your skills for all kinds of stuff, you know, making turns, passenger stops without hitting curbs and stuff like that,” Jack Berner said.
Berner drives for Metro Transit in the Twin Cities. He's made it to the state competition more times than he can count. He wears his pride on his sleeve with badges showing off his victories. Still, he said the job is really about the passengers.
“It's very fulfilling. A lot of these people don't have cars. If it wasn't for us they couldn't get to to shopping or to work or whatever so we're their only means to get out there,” Berner said.
He had coworkers cheering him on from the sidelines.
“It's a camraderie between coworkers, and it's just fun to hoot, holler and have fun,” Theresa Collins said.
The fellow Metro Transit driver said the group loves to hit the rodeo every year even if they don't qualify. Collins said it gets tense watching because every clipped cone takes away points. She said that 40 foot bus can be deceiving from a distance.
“It looks much easier than it really is when you're actually out there actually competing in the roadeo,” Collins said.
She said weather in Minnesota can make her daily routine feel like a roadeo to passengers.
“Well they get to participate every day when we're maneuvering through traffic in the towns and deal with snow and ice. It's always there,” Collins said.
That is why the bus drivers remind everyone to give buses some space on the roads.
Heath Hickok, director of marketing for the Duluth Transit Authority, said the whole competition is about keeping everyone safe.
“Every day they're using these skills and abilities to keep our passengers happy, and keep our passengers safe, which is most important,” Hickok said.
The winner of the competition will be sent on to nationals in Texas next year.
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