Gary Cuendet just completed his 26th year as the transportation director of Camdenton R-III school district.

It’s been 20 years of near perfection for Camdenton Schools’ transportation team.

But that’s no surprise to Gary Cuendet. Having just completed his 26th year as the transportation director of Camdenton R-III school district, Cuendet has witnessed and been a part of the hard work and team effort that has gone into making the bus fleet consistently meet standards of excellence set by the state.

Last week, Cuendet and team completed their annual bus fleet inspections and secured, for the 20th year in a row, an excellent rating from the Missouri Department of Transportation inspection team out of Jefferson City. To obtain the fleet excellence award, the department must achieve a 90 percent or better on the overall inspection. The lowest score the crew has had over the last 20 years is a 96.9 percent. This year’s fleet achieved a perfect 100 percent rating, which is the 13th instance of perfection in the two decade span. 

Cuendet explained that, within these inspections, the MODOT team looks for similar points of interest that might be found in a normal car inspection. There are a few checkpoints that are specific to buses, including securement of student seats, and 342 total items that must pass testing. With 78 total buses in the district fleet, the total inspection time took over six hours. Cuendet says that the buses drive 3,214 total students to school. 

The department has 69 current drivers, and Cuendet says that this consistent rating of excellence is something that is held in high regard. He says that achieving this level of consistency is not achieved by himself or any other single entity, but rather the public, the administration, the transportation office, the mechanics, and the drivers all as one cohesive effort. 

“It takes everyone as a whole to work together to achieve this type of an award for 20 straight years,” Cuendet said. “We’ve molded one of the greatest transportation districts in the state of Missouri.” 

Cuendet says that a lot of his personal success comes from the way the department has been streamlined over the years. He recalled a time when many of the busses in the fleet were still with manual transmission and the ease that followed when they were switched to a modern automatic setting. Aspects like that and making sure all busses were of a similar model helped to train the mechanics in a more effective manner. By allowing the mechanics to all learn a close knit skill-set, the work done in shop became much more efficient. 

“Back when I started, if there was a problem, the mechanics would first turn to their tool boxes,” Cuendet said. “Now, the guys turn around, grab a laptop, plug it into a bus, and they can fix anything.”

Cuendet has made a strong effort to continue to send mechanics and department workers to annual Summer training seminars to keep up to date with any methods of repair. He says that at times, the department has even had neighboring county mechanics come to them with questions. He says he is proud to have what he considers the best mechanics in the area.

Looking forward, Cuendet is most concerned with achieving excellence again for year 21. He says that this might be accomplished by sticking to the efforts they have already put in place and staying true to the methods that have worked so well before. He has no plans to stop anytime soon and is even looking forward to the next milestone, year 30.

“We’ve gotten to 20, now let’s shoot for 30,” Cuendet said. “I appreciate being recognized for this success over the years, but people should know that the people working around me are what really make this happen. It takes those people to obtain this type of award.”