Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bus Drivers' Showdown in JTA Parking Lot; Fierce Competition for Roadeo State Championship

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bus Drivers' Showdown in JTA Parking Lot; Fierce Competition for Roadeo State Championship

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

They're the Larry Bird and Magic Johnson of bus drivers, fierce competitors who take turns besting one another.

A year ago, Pablo Perez, who drives for Lynx, a public transportation system headquartered in Orlando, won the Florida state championship for bus drivers. Ramon Farfan, who drives for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, was runner-up.

But when the two got to Long Beach, Calif., site of the American Public Transportation Association's International Bus Roadeo, Farfan turned the tables, becoming the international champion.

Saturday, on a misty, overcast morning, they were at it again, two of 12 drivers competing for the Florida championship. Their arena was a parking lot at the JTA headquarters off Myrtle Avenue.

Normally it would have been filled with parked buses. But on Saturday, it was filled with barrels, traffic cones, tennis balls and other obstacles around and through which the competitors navigated 40-foot buses.

"It's fun, it's entertaining," said Farfan, who has been a JTA driver for more than 12 years. "It shapes you up ... I like competition."

The competition helps "keep a focus on driver safety," said Nat Ford, the JTA's executive director. "We take great pride in having a champion among us."

The 12 drivers competing Saturday had each won a local competition. The top two finishers in the state competition will go on to compete at the international competition, which this year will be in Indianapolis.

"It's truly the best of the best," said Kent Stover, the 1994 international champion driver who is the JTA's senior planning manager.

Another competition was going on among seven teams of mechanics, also battling to be state champions. The JTA's team included Bill Lovelady, George McGarry and James Ratliff.

"If you win, man, it's bragging rights," said McGarry, a former champion, explaining why he'd spend his day off doing his job, identifying and repairing mechanical problems. …

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