Ask Tammy Klein what she enjoys most about her job at King County Metro and she lists three things: her customers, her coworkers, and getting to drive a bus.
This veteran driver can sure handle a 40-foot coach. She’s a seven-time champion of the “Metroadeo,” the annual transit Olympics for some of Metro’s most skilled drivers.
Klein is the first and only woman to win the competition, and in June, claimed her third consecutive title in three years. She will represent Metro at the Washington State Public Transportation Roadeo on August 19 in Kennewick, and then at the International Bus Roadeo next year in Lexington, Kentucky.
“Participating in the roadeo does make you a better-focused driver,” said Klein, a 23-year veteran who drives a variety of routes every week as a board operator out of Metro’s Ryerson Base in Sodo. “It is about safety and (avoiding) collisions and pedestrian accidents. It’s very rewarding. I think it’s something that every new driver should consider. “
There were 37 competitors in this year’s event at Metro’s training yard in Tukwila. It consists of 11 obstacles testing drivers’ abilities to maneuver the bus forward, backward and around tight turns, as well as precision braking, judging distance and how evenly they can pull up to the bus stop. Drivers have seven minutes to complete the obstacles while trying to avoid hitting any of 150 red traffic cones set up throughout the course.
“The hardest part is just getting over the nerves because it is your one shot you’ve worked all year for,” Klein said. “You do have to practice.”
There also is a inspection test in which drivers have to find a variety of operational defects on the bus within 8 minutes. Usually that includes one “security issue,” such as a suspicious package hidden from view.
Klein didn’t hit any cones during the driving test and scored a total of 682 points out of 700. The second-place score was 612 points.
Klein now has her sights on the state competition, where Metro will be one of 20 agencies participating from Washington and Oregon. And she’s looking forward to another chance at beating her personal best of 8th place at the International Bus Roadeo in 2019.