Bruce Rollins at work. Submitted photo

WILTON — Bruce Rollins has been driving a school bus for Regional School Unit 9 for 24 years. During that time he has trained 47 new bus drivers.

Rollins, 67, drives two bus runs each day. One run carries children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade and the other run is for kids in sixth grade through grade 12.

He is also in his 43rd year as a part-time preacher for Churches of Christ. He and his wife, Brinda, have been married for 47 years and have two children and six grandchildren.

When did you decide to become a bus driver and why? I became a bus driver in 1997. I was a stateside missionary. Southern churches dropped my financial support in order to support mission work in Eastern Europe after the Iron Curtain came down. I love children so I applied to become a bus driver and was hired.

Is it stressful to drive a bus full of school children? Yes. To be responsible for the safety of a lot of children is very stressful. Therefore, driving a school bus must be taken very seriously. I try to treat all my students as if they were my grandchildren. The most stressful time is during bad weather, especially winter driving. This year there is added stress. We have to make sure everyone wears a mask, uses hand sanitizer when they get on the bus and make sure everybody is 3 feet away from each other, unless it is a family member.

How did you become a trainer for new bus drivers? Our previous bus driver trainer retired about 16 years ago. I worked with her when she trained a few drivers to learn how to do it. Then I was on my own to train.

School bus driver Bruce Rollins of Wilton has trained 47 new bus drivers for Regional School Unit 9 based in Farmington. Submitted photo

What is the most important safety information you stress to new drivers? I stress that everything we do as a bus driver is based on safety first. From the pre-trip bus check to following the rules of the road. Everything is to be done with the safe transportation of students to school and back to their homes.

Have buses changed since you first became a driver? Absolutely, buses have changed. We use to have all of our buses run on diesel fuel. Now we have several of our buses run on propane fuel, which seems to the be the choice of the future at this time for school buses. There are hints that in the upcoming future we may have school buses which will run by electricity that will have to be recharged regularly.

What do you like the most about being a school bus driver? I like to think that I am doing an important service for the public in order to earn their confidence to trust myself and those I train that their children are in good hands getting to school and back home safely. I like getting to know and enjoy children as I interact with them. My hope is that I can be a good example and influence on all of our children. I also enjoy getting to know and work with my students’ parents. I want their parents to know that I always have their children’s best interest at heart, as I drive them around. Children are our most precious cargo!

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