B.C. Transit sending Victoria-area team to compete in bus roadeo challenge

Veteran driver Keith Yeo will represent Victoria in international bus competition

B.C. Transit driver Keith Yeo feels right at home in a bus operator's seat. Yeo is the local bus roadeo champion and will compete in an international driving skills competition in California in May.

Let him sit in the driver’s seat of anything with wheels that’s longer than 10 metres, and Keith Yeo feels right at home.

The B.C. Transit bus driver, who has driven practically every route in the Capital Region over the past 25 years, has earned the right to compete at the 2012 International Bus Roadeo.

The Brentwood Bay resident out-performed nine drivers Saturday on an obstacle course set up at B.C. Transit’s Langford yard.

“I think it’s that experience that got him that (win),” said Randie Johal, a B.C. Transit service delivery manager who regularly works with transit operators.

Andrew White of Langford finished in second and will spend the next month training as Yeo’s understudy.

The pair will volunteer their time over the next month practising for the Bus Roadeo, set for May 4 to 8 in Long Beach, Calif. They will be coached by seven-time local roadeo champion, Ron Brown, B.C. Transit’s safety and training officer.

“A lot of these obstacles are what drivers face on a day-to-day basis,” he said. “It’s great to be able to go back down to (the U.S.) again. That’s where you really get challenged. You’re dealing with some of the top drivers in North America.”

Drivers who competed last Thursday and Saturday have impressive driving records. Yeo has never had a traffic accident and has driven more than one million miles in his career.

Yeo said his calm nature likely gave him a competitive edge on Saturday. It’s a quality, he said, that proves useful when he drives bus during the often-rowdy Canada Day festivities. It also helps him in his work as a Central Saanich volunteer firefighter.

“Nothing gets me rattled,” the soft-spoken driver said Monday while navigating his bus along a Victoria-Oak Bay route.

Still, he is somewhat nervous about one aspect of the upcoming competition. If he makes the final cut while in California, his customer service skills will be tested by actors in front of a large crowd.

“It’s the public speaking,” he said with a smile.

emccracken@vicnews.com

Did you Know?

• Last week’s local bus roadeo marks B.C. Transit’s return to hosting the annual regional qualifier after many years.

• For the first time, the bus company is also sending a maintenance team to compete in California.

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