Bulloch County resident Gil Riggs has driven a public school bus for the past four years. Considering his skills behind the wheel, some would say Riggs is a natural bus driver.
Actually, Riggs is so good at what he does that he has won the Bulloch County Bus Rodeo skills competition the past two years.
This rodeo requires Bulloch County public school bus drivers to perform the most difficult of maneuvers that they may have to deal with while out on their routes. Rodeo drivers actually drive their regular buses in the competition.
According to Riggs, the challenges consist of the “Straight Line,” in which contestants must drive between five sets of tennis balls set 25 feet apart with two inches of clearance.
“Parallel Parking,” in which drivers are required to park within 18 inches from the curb in a space only five feet wider than the bus.
Finally, there is the "Offset Alley," in which drivers must shift lanes in spaces that are shorter than the length of your bus. That means the front end of your bus is in one lane while the rear of your bus is still in the other.
After winning the Bulloch County competition last year, Riggs went on to take second place in the George State Bus Rodeo. That qualified him to go on to the International Bus Rodeo, where he finished in the top half of the best school bus drivers in the United States and Canada.
During the 2010 Georgia State Bus Rodeo competition, from which he just returned, Riggs earned a fourth place finish out of 57 drivers from across the state.
Riggs is not the only one in his family who loves bus driving: while he has regular route at Mattie Lively Elementary School, his wife, Kathy, drives substitute bus routes for the county.
The Riggs’ had operated Regency Photo in Statesboro for a good many years until the slowing economy forced them to close the store. Having been self-employed for 25 years, Riggs said it was a shock to have to enter the job market.
However, getting a full-time job did have some real benefits, like health insurance, and a regular paycheck. Gil and Kathy have two boys: Josh, who is currently enrolled at Ogeechee Technical College; and Will, who works for Walmart in Statesboro.
Paul Webb, director of tTransportation for the Bulloch County School System, said: "Gil is like so many of our drivers. He works hard at getting better with his skills; he loves the children; and he takes great pride in being a safe driver”
Webb added, "All of Bulloch County's bus drivers are proud of his Rodeo accomplishments over the past two years. Bulloch County has a long tradition of drivers doing well in that competition and he is continuing that legacy."