Wichita school bus driver gears up for international competition


A Wichita school bus driver is training for the 48th annual School Bus Driver International Safety Competition.

The competition, hosted by the National School Transportation Association (NSTA), tests drivers on their professionalism, skill and dedication to transportation.

“It’s not just about driving a bus, but you learn this whole community of busing,” said First Student bus driver Mollie Cornwell.

Cornwell, 62, started her career as a school bus driver in the 90’s after her husband was laid off from his job in the aircraft industry.

“One of my friends at church had been bugging me forever to come drive a bus. She said, ‘You can do it.’ I said, ‘No, I can’t,'” Cornwell said. 

Cornwell soon proved she could drive a school bus and do it well. In 2005, she started competing in the driving competition. 

“This refines what you do to the point where you get it. You know what your bus can do, what your bus can’t do,” Cornwell said. 

The mom and grandma is a four-time grand champion at the state competition. She’s also placed in the top five at the international competition.

“Everybody who works here can do what I’m doing if they put their mind to it,” she said. 

On Tuesday, KSN got a behind the scenes look at how Cornwell trains for the contest.

“When I come out on this course, I really correlate this with my walk with God. My enemy has all my points out there. I want them back, so I’m not competing against another driver. I’m competing against the course,” she said. 

The course consists of a written test and a driving test which includes several timed obstacles.

“My back end has to go between those two barriers which are 10-feet apart and my bus is 8 feet, so I have 1 foot on either side,” Cornwell explained.

Cornwell said the ultimate goal is to get through each obstacle without having her school bus hit any of the items on the course.

“The number one rule of driving a school bus, don’t touch anything,” she said.

Cornwell explained she relies heavily on her mirrors to help her get through the course hit-free.

“Mirrors on a bus and on any vehicle are your friends. If you learn to use your mirrors properly, you won’t touch anything,” she said. 

The 2018 competition takes place on July 22 in Philadeplhia, PA. 

Cornwell said it’s her dream to win the contest.

“It would be a goal accomplished, I could say that,” she said.

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