Joe Storey Sr., a bus driver for the Pembroke School Department for the past 25 years, recently won first place in the State of Maine driving skills competition. Storey will advance to the national competition, which will be held in July 2013. Next year will make the third time in which he has competed on a national level.
He also competed in the Maine Association of Pupil Transportation (MAPT) Downeast division competition at Harrington and won third place, advancing to the state competition at Sugarloaf Mountain on July 26. The event includes a school bus rodeo competition, pre-trip inspections and driver safety training.
"There were probably 35 to 40 drivers that I competed against," says Storey. "Had a good time, met a lot of people. There were probably three or four hundred people there that had to do with bus driving, like bosses, mechanics and all that stuff. I learned a lot from the classes we had to go to."
These classes included instruction on proper handling of the bus fire extinguisher, evacuation methods, the laws and new rules of bus safety.
"Safety is number one, period," says Storey. "We carry the most precious cargo anywhere. So if there's anything to do with safety, I'll let something else happen before I'll let a kid get hurt. A lot of the skills are repetition."
Storey delights in talking with the students on his bus a lot, advocating that a person in his line of work must like children for the job to work. "Respect the kids. You've got to respect them. They won't respect you if you don't respect them."
With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that two former bus passengers who traveled with Storey made him a present of two little people figures out of toilet paper rolls, which he has proudly kept at the front of his bus for 18 years since. Other students might give him their graduation pictures.
Storey maintains that if a person cannot do this job, they should not be there. "It's a hard job to do, really. The responsibility is unreal."
With the new school year quickly approaching, Storey strongly advises all motor vehicle drivers to be as equally concerned about the safety of the children as they board or exit the school bus. He will tell children not to cross the road unless he gives them the okay that it is safe. "Be very aware of the red lights. The yellow lights, you can go by. Red lights, you cannot. If they go by the red lights while we're still moving, it can cost them $250 the first time and loss of license for 90 days. So it is quite a serious thing. But me being in the bus alone, I've got watch out for the kid first."