A bus yard in Landover, Md., on the outskirts of Washington, D.C., isn’t typically a place you think of when it comes to fun for the whole family. On a recent autumn day, however, excitement was in the air.
Local 922 bus drivers for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) were competing in the annual bus Roadeo, a competition where bus drivers test their speed and agility by driving through an obstacle course in front of a live audience.
Teamsters have a decades-long winning streak in the competition.
“Anybody can compete, as long as you’re part of WMATA,” said Local 922 President Isiah Bryant Jr. “We’re here to win.”
Local 922 only represents one bus yard in the WMATA system—the Landover yard where the contest was held. Still, in a competition where drivers from some of the other yards are careening into the orange barrels at the end of the course like a bowling ball knocking over pins, it’s clear to everyone that the Teamsters represent the best bus drivers in the area.
“It’s not even a competition!” said Stephen Zuniga, a fleet servicer and Local 922 member. “Landover already won. Cancel the rest of the event!”
One of the best drivers on the course is Kenny Lee, a 26-year veteran that was given the nickname “the General” by his co-workers.
“They call me that because they like the way I dispatch the buses and interact with my co-workers and the maintenance crew,” Lee said. “We all have good relationships, so one day they just decided I was the General. I’m looking forward to becoming the commander.”
Lee has been competing since 2003, and he won first place last year. He first became a bus driver at 23, but he’s known that he wanted to drive buses for WMATA for quite some time.
“When I was about four, five years old, my mother used to see me holding a basket, and I would turn it around like a steering wheel,” Lee said. “She used to always say, ‘You’re going to be a bus driver when you get older!’ and I always kept that in the back in my mind. I look at my career, and I feel very happy with what I’ve accomplished over the course of 26 years.”
Kevin Harrington is a bus operator, utility clerk and line instructor with seven years of service. It was his first time competing in the Roadeo.