10th annual “Love the Bus” event honors 2019 Alabama school bus driver of the year

Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Transportation South
“Love the Bus” at Transportation South in Pelham. Photo submitted

Every school day, Alabama bus drivers travel 488,000 miles—the equivalent of 20 trips around the earth—while safely transporting our most precious cargo. Every year a national event called “Love the Bus,” held locally in Pelham, honors their service.

The Big Event

Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Transportation South
School and community leaders from across the state came out to celebrate. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

Transportation South, which is Alabama’s largest school bus provider, hosts the state’s “Love the Bus” celebration each year. The 10th annual event on February 13 honored 41 of our state’s best school bus drivers, plus Driver of the Year 2019, Becky Suits of Arab City Schools.

“There are thousands of great drivers, but we also have many drivers that have a real heart for their jobs. They realize that in a lot of cases when a student gets on the bus, their face might be the first smiling face they see all day long, and in the afternoon when they drop that student off, it might be the last. All of these drivers are like that, or they wouldn’t be here today. We are so proud to honor Ms. Suits with this great honor as the 2019 Alabama ‘Love the Bus’ Driver of the Year.”

Bucky Law, president of Transportation South
Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Transportation South, Becky Suits, Arab City Schools
WVTM 13 News interviewed Suits after her big win. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

Prior to the event, students, parents and teachers across Alabama voted on their best school bus drivers and submitted nominations for Driver of the Year. The Alabama State Department of Education chose the winner.

For the Win

Suits’ nomination letter highlighted her 34 years of service, as well as the many ways she goes beyond the call of duty, such as buying warm jackets for students in need. The best part?

“I didn’t have a clue,” Suits said of winning the award.

Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Transportation South, WendellSmith, Becky Suits, Arab City Schools
Wendell Smith (left) nominated Suits. Photo by Terri Robertson for Bham Now

Her boss, Wendell Smith, transportation director of Arab City Schools, nominated her on the sly. Then he got her there by casually asking if she wanted to tag along to eat some good food at an event. (That part was true. Barbecue and Edgar’s Bakery chocolate and strawberry cakes were on the menu.)

Big Yellow Bus Facts

The American School Bus Council founded the “Love the Bus” program in 2007. Local events happen throughout February in school districts across the country to raise awareness and appreciation for school bus drivers. Check out these cool facts.

  • 480,000 school buses roam the U.S. roadways.
  • Bus drivers safely transport more than 26 million schoolchildren each day.
  • In Alabama, 70 percent of our population—yep, that’s the little ones—hop on the bus on school days.
  • The nation’s school bus system is the largest and safest transportation system in the country.
  • A child is 13 times safer in a school bus than the average of other transportation methods. 
  • School buses remove an estimated 17.3 million cars from the road each morning, saving approximately 2.3 billion gallons of gas annually.
  • Drivers receive specialized classroom and behind-the-wheel training in driving a school bus, student loading/unloading procedures, student evacuation, student behavior, security management and emergency medical procedures.
Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Chad Carpenter, Lazarus Lewis, Birmingham City Schools, Bucky Law, Transportation South
Chad Carpenter (left) and Bucky Law (right) with “Love the Bus” honored driver Lazarus Lewis (center) of Birmingham City Schools. Photo by Bham Now

Chad Carpenter, e-coordinator of pupil transportation at the Alabama State Department of Education, and Bucky Law, president of Transportation South, gave out certificates and gift bags to each honored driver. Here’s the full list of 2019 Alabama “Love the Bus” honorees. Give them a big hand for all they do.

Honorees

Patricia Thomas, Autauga County Schools
Honored driver Patricia Thomas (center) of Autauga County Schools. Photo by Bham Now
  • Jean Webb, Alabaster City Schools
  • Patricia Thomas, Autauga County Schools
  • Candyce Hodgens, Bibb County Schools
  • Lazarus Lewis, Birmingham City Schools
  • Rob Gardner, Calhoun County Schools
Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Chad Carpenter, Rob Gardner of Calhoun County Schools, Bucky Law, Transportation South
Honored driver Rob Gardner (center) of Calhoun County Schools. Photo by Bham Now
  • Andy Mims, Chilton County Schools
  • Tracey Coursey, Dale County Schools
  • Randy Davis, Dale County Schools
  • Liz Jones, Enterprise City Schools
  • Edell Brewer, Fairfield City Schools
  • Nathaniel Coleman, Fairfield City Schools
  • Steve Cooley, Hoover City Schools
  • Linda Pennell, Hunstville City Schools
  • Lloyd Jenkins, Jasper City Schools
  • Charles Banks, Leeds City Schools
  • Michelle Ezell, Limestone County Schools
Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Chad Carpenter, Michelle Ezell, Limestone County Schools, Bucky Law, Transportation South
Honored driver Michelle Ezell (center) of Limestone County Schools. Photo by Bham Now
  • Fred Bascomb Jr., Macon County Schools
  • Mary Anne Pease, Madison City Schools
  • Frank Loosier, Morgan County Schools
  • Terry Davis, Pelham City Schools
  • Donna Johnson, Perry County Schools
  • Lawrence Sankey, Pike County Schools
  • Vivian James, Pike Road City Schools
  • Lashonda Oliver, Pike Road City Schools
Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Chad Carpenter, Lashonda Oliver, Pike Road City Schools, Bucky Law, Transportation South
Honored driver Lashonda Oliver (center) of Pike Road City Schools. Photo by Bham Now
  • Robert Cates, Pike Road City Schools
  • Julie Cates, Pike Road City Schools
  • John Flournoy, Pike Road City Schools
  • Jarvis Frazier, Pike Road City Schools
  • Michael Haigler, Pike Road City Schools
  • Jim Hunter, Pike Road City Schools
  • Wayne Price, Shelby County Schools
  • Kim Price, Shelby County Schools
  • Odessa Williams, STS
  • Ronald Richardson, STS
  • John Jackson, Sumter County Schools
  • Carl Palmore, Trussville City Schools
  • John Huie, Trussville City Schools
Birmingham, Pelham, Alabama, Love the Bus, Chad Carpenter, John Huie, Trussville City Schools, Bucky Law, Transportation South
Honored driver John Huie (center) of Trussville City Schools. Photo by Bham Now
  • David Beasley, Walker County Schools
  • Myra Brown, Wilcox County Schools
  • Bessie Love, Wilcox County Schools
  • Kelly Woodard, Winston County Schools

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