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"Test drive a school bus" event highlights work of school bus drivers

Community members could take a school bus out for a spin through an empty parking lot to highlight the role of bus drivers.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A community “Test Drive a School Bus” event on May 23 highlighted bus safety and the role of school bus drivers.

The event was put on by Rohrer Bus, a local school transportation company that provides busing for 20 districts around central and northeast Pennsylvania.

Community members could take a school bus out for a spin through an empty parking lot at one of five locations throughout Southcentral Pennsylvania.

For some, driving a school bus can be white-knuckle driving.

“I was a little nervous because it’s 10 times the size of any vehicle I’ve ever driven,” said Nancy Kemberling, a Harrisburg resident whose husband is a professional school bus driver.

Professional drivers were on hand to give advice.

“It’s very intimidating but once you get behind the wheel, just drive. Just take your time,” said Michele Worley, a school bus trainer with Rohrer Bus of Susquehanna Township School District.

Buses may be much larger than the average commuter car, but they also have extra safety features.

“Modern school buses are automatic transmission, power brakes, power steering,” said Glenn Pickering, supervisor of Rohrer Bus of Susquehanna Township School District. “It’s a lot easier than many people think.”

Safety was a focus of the event, as school bus drivers play an important role in education. School buses transport 88 percent of school-age children in Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania School Bus Association (PSBA).

“Being able to get our kids safety to and from school is a really vital service,” Pickering said.

In addition to traffic concerns, drivers had to adapt to COVID-19 safety protocols in the past year. Drivers adjusted their schedules, drove extra trips and enforced social distancing on the bus.

“On hot days it’s very difficult driving because of wearing the mask, but I’m thinking of the safety of all our kids,” Worley said.

When students return to the classroom next school year, more drivers will be needed. The whole state is already facing a shortage of drivers, according to PSBA.

Sunday’s event, however, may not have found any recruits.

“For fun maybe, but not for a real job,” Kemberling said.

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