NEISD school bus driver named best in country

Michael Castaneda finishes first among US drivers

SAN ANTONIO - While students are enjoying summer break, a few school buses are still running and, in one case, competing.

In fact, one Northeast Independent School District school bus driver was just named the best driver in the country.

Riding along with Michael Castaneda, it is easy to understand how he received the distinction. After all, he has logged some 400,000 miles behind the big, black wheel.

His story began by chance, after driving trucks for 20 years and being laid off.

"I thought it was going to be a temporary job until I got back on my feet, but I enjoyed it and I said, 'I can do this a long time,'” said Castaneda.

Now, 12 years later, he is not just a good bus driver -- he is the best.

"At the end of the day, they tallied up the final scores. I got second in the international and placed first in the United States,” remarked Castaneda.

Before that, he finished first locally and statewide, no easy task in and of itself.

It is all part of a competition called the School Bus Driver International Safety Competition. This year, the competition was held in Milwaukee, Wis. It consisted of a written test of local, federal, and state laws, plus 10 skilled driving events.

"It was tough. Once you get out of state, you are facing the best drivers in the country,” said Castaneda.

One of the tests asked drivers to parallel park a 40-foot bus into a 47-foot space. Castaneda completed the task on his first try and said, if he had to, he could do it in 30 seconds.

Other tasks included driving through two tennis balls 27 inches wide and practicing student loading and unloading.

Add in screaming students and it is apparent that Castaneda’s job is not an easy one. In the end, he has just one goal in mind.

"Safety is our main issue here. It’s all about safety. Getting kids to and from school," said Castaneda.

Castaneda said he plans to defend his title next year.

For a list of recent stories Justin Horne has done, click here.


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