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Bus drivers, bosses do battle in a playful game of inches

City-contracted drivers compete with bosses for competition, chance to learn

Posted: May 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: May 13, 2011 1:55 a.m.

A city-contracted bus driver maneuvers through an obstacle course Thursday in Santa Clarita. The city organized a competition between its bus drivers and their bosses to give both an opportunity for professional development — and a shot at the grand prize, a flat-screen television.

The city bus pulled up in front of 10 black barrels set evenly apart along two straight lines.

The driver revved the engine and waited.

The lane defined by barrels — 10 feet apart going in, but only 9 feet, 6 inches coming out — was just one of several challenges tackled by the city of Santa Clarita’s bus mechanics Thursday.

The plan of this challenge was to charge through this narrowing lane at 15 mph and not hit any of the barrels.

The word was given, and the bus charged forward, reaching 20 mph.

With only 3 inches to spare on either side, it cleared all the barrels — except for one on the passenger side.

A collective gasp was heard from a small crowd of bus mechanics in blue coveralls, their bosses sporting fluorescent orange vests.

Fifteen mechanics and 10 utility workers working at the city’s Transit Maintenance Facility squared off against each other Thursday for the city’s inaugural Transit Maintenance “Road-eo.”

“The whole idea is to point out our weaknesses,” Maintenance Manager Jim Schultzman said.

Unlike their rodeo counterparts, the workers were not expected to tie together the legs of bulls or bounce on the backs of bucking broncos, but the competitive spirit was about par.

And no wonder: First prize was a flat-screen TV.

“It’s a way to test their skills,” said Adrian Aguilar, the city’s transit manager. “They’ve hit a couple of barrels today.”

But those tested Thursday were the 10 utility workers who clean the buses, and the 15 workers who ensure the 103 city buses are in good running order.

The transit workers are still expected to drive the buses in and out of the shop on Constellation Road.

In addition to the gauntlet of narrowing barrels, Road-eo competitors are tested for driving through a serpentine route and being able to stop in time.

A second set of challenges involved fixing a broken bus.

“We simulate some of our more common problems,” testing judge Juan Silva said. “We disable the wheelchair lift, for example, and expect them to figure out what the problem is and how to fix it.”

The final test is in the shop, where testers purposely tamper with brakes and fuel lines, then judge how promptly the mechanics find and fix the problem.

“Oh yeah, it’s fun,” mechanic Walter Moreno said. “I tapped one of the barrels on the right.”

The barrel stayed up, he said, putting him in the running for the TV.


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