When Perry Fogle first started driving a school bus, he would take his riders to Goose Creek High School, park the bus, and go inside for class.
“I was one of the last of the high school student bus drivers,” said Fogle, 44.
In those days, anyone who was 16, had a driver’s license and took a week-long course could be a school bus driver. That practice came to and end by the late 1980s.
Now, the training is a little bit more rigorous, requiring background checks, a special license and ongoing education in the classroom and on the road.
Fogle, of Goose Creek, has risen to the challenge among his 240 peers on the Berkeley County School District’s transportation team.
He returned to Goose Creek and bus driving in September 2010 after a 22-year career repairing electronics for military intelligence equipment in the Army, and for the last two years he has brought home the title in the Bus Driver Road-E-O sponsored by the South Carolina Association for Pupil Transportation.
“For me the competition was something that I wanted to do just to see where I was as a bus driver and to help improve my safety behind the wheel,” he said.
The competition included a written test and a skills test that included pre-trip inspection, diminished clearance, student pick-up and railroad crossing safety. It also included parallel parking, a skill Fogle acquired while driving students on field trips to peninsular Charleston.
In July, Fogle represented Berkeley County and South Carolina at the National School Transportation Association’s School Bus Driver International Safety Competition in Tulsa, Okla., competing against top drivers from other states and Canada.
“The competition was very tough,” he said. “Many of them had been there multiple times. I came in 40th out of 49 in the conventional bus category, but I took solace in the fact that I didn’t come in last.”
The test included areas that drivers in the South don’t put an emphasis on, such as driving in snow.
While that knowledge might come in handy for the competition, the competition is not the reason Fogle drives a bus.
“To be a good influence on the kids and help them with any kind of issues they might have with the other kids, that’s very satisfying thing to me,” he said.
Each day he drives a 2007 model long bus on routes to and from Marrington Elementary, Marrington Middle and Goose Creek High School. His workday is roughly 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., then 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., a schedule he likes because it gives him time during the day to tend to personal business.
He also often drives field trips in between his shifts.
Driving 65 children at once can be a challenge, he said, but, “My kids are pretty good kids. They do get a little loud and rowdy sometimes, but they listen to me whenever I tell them they need to quiet down. I have great support from Marrington elementary and middle and Goose Creek High School. Any problems, they help me nip it in the bud real quick.”
Fogle hopes to compete at the international competition again next year, he said.
Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or www.facebook.com/brindge.