CARTS celebrates drivers at special picnic

Maggie Darnell for The Cullman Tribune

CULLMAN, Ala. – Cullman Area Rural Transportation System (CARTS) Director Joyce Echols on Saturday gathered CARTS drivers and family members together a special appreciation picnic for the drivers at Sportsman Lake Park.

Echols said with a smile, “Well, this is the first time we’ve ever done this, and it’s long overdue. Our drivers are our life force, you know, and they are out there in the public every day working hard. They keep our people happy and are very safe drivers. It’s time we showed them how much we appreciate

Echols shared another reason for the picnic: “They do competitions every year, you know we get to do our own competition, local roadeo, and then we’d go to state competition, and for the past several years we’ve either placed or won the national championship. I just think we need to show them how much we appreciate how hard they work and how well they do their jobs.”

CARTS Driver Wade Hancock took first place in the Van Division at the Alabama Rural Transit Assistance Program (RTAP) Statewide Bus and Paratransit Roadeo, which was held March 23 in Eufaula. Hancock won first place in the Van Division and Driver of the Year at the 2019 National Community Transit Roadeo, which took place in Palm Springs, California this year. Hancock also won last year’s Driver of the Year award and first place in the Van Division at the 2018 National Community Transit Roadeo, which was in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Hancock shared the process of how he won the Van Division, saying, “It’s a set four-part course, a roadeo driving course with 10 obstacles, a written test with 25 questions, we have to correctly load in seven minutes or less a person in a wheelchair, and we have to find four defects on a bus that they predetermine and fix in less than seven minutes, and you may find more than five defects, but you gotta find their four, and luckily we pulled it out of the hat.”

Hancock is the second driver to win back-to-back, and the first driver ever to win Driver of the Year back-to-back.

Hancock added with a smile, “I was pumped about it.”

Of being honored at Saturday’s picnic, he said, “Well I’m sort of flabbergasted because I didn’t realize, I mean I just thought we were having a picnic today, I did not realize we were doing this, per say. I wasn’t aware of this; we had a little trouble at the house and this lady, she called me, and she said, ‘Well you need to be here.’ So I’m sort of touched, humbled and sort of flabbergasted right now.”

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Maggie Darnell