TAHOE CITY, Calif. — It’s 4:45 in the morning and Derek Bosserman’s alarm clock is ringing.
In the pre-dawn hours, Bosserman, 23, will hop into his brown Ford pickup and make the drive up State Highway 267 to Truckee. The early trip is nothing new for Bosserman, who knows that being a school bus driver is a Monday-through Friday-affair.
“I was always the kid who loved riding the bus; I was always the kid asking questions,” said Bosserman, a Tahoe City resident and former Tahoe Truckee Unified School District student.
During the day, Bosserman will cover his 18-stop route twice, driving 130 miles, with a total driving time of seven hours. His bus, bus No. 9, is a 2005 Bluebird All American Cat C7 Diesel, one of the school district’s fleet of 37. It stretches eight-and-a-half feet-wide and 40-feet long. It weighs 36,000 pounds fully loaded. Bosserman has been driving it the past three years.
At the district’s transportation department, Bosserman is known for his mechanical talents, his safety standards and his affinity for large automobiles. Bosserman can describe every aspect of his bus — from its 22.5-inch rims, to its 84 seats to even its 7.2 miles-per-gallon gas mileage.
He’s even timed how fast he can chain his tires in the snow. Answer: seven minutes.
Yet, if you ask him what pushes him to wake up in the morning, don’t expect anything automobile-related.
“The kids are by far the most rewarding part of this job,” said Bosserman, who has memorized all 65 of his passengers’ names. “If you don’t like kids you shouldn’t be here.”
As one of the 34 bus drivers in the district, Bosserman transports his students across the school district, traversing its 720-square-mile territory, from Truckee to Squaw Valley to the west shore to Tahoe Vista and Kings Beach.
Spending that much time on the road allows him to develop a strong understanding of his kids.
“So little of it is really driving,” he said. “Really, it’s a one-on-one relationship with the kids.”
Nanette Rondeau, director of transportation for the school district, said his rapport with the kids is one of Bosserman’s trademarks; however, she said he has many more.
“Derek pays attention to all the small details and he’s a perfectionist. He has a high standard of safety” Rondeau says.
She adds that each bus driver is held to rigorous safety standards. To qualify as a TTUSD driver, each applicant must complete a mandatory 20 hours of classroom instruction with an additional 20 hours of driving time. Drivers are also required to obtain a class B-license and have First Aid certification.
Looking to the future, Bosserman said he’s set a goal to become a vehicle service worker, the technically savvy middle man between bus driver and auto mechanic. For the present though, he said he’s happy to serve his 65 young passengers.
Even if that means waking up at 4:45 a.m.