Every day, hundreds of students, faculty and staff pack onto Lehigh buses. Despite the frequency of their bus usage, some of them may not know much about the people behind the wheel.
Sharon Field, director of transportation and parking services, said the department is short-staffed. From the early morning hours to the late evening hours, 16 university drivers work to ensure Lehigh community members get from place to place safely.
Some of the drivers are new, while others — like Terry Johnson and Agustin Vazquez — have served the Lehigh community for years. While the paths that lead them to Lehigh may differ, their shared love for students is what keeps them here.
From Louisville, Kentucky, Johnson worked six years at a local bread company before pivoting to driving tractor trailers.
Since then, Johnson said he has worked as a driver for airports, school buses and United Van Lines—a household relocation company.
When Johnson first moved to Pennsylvania, he told the Lehigh transportation office he would only be seeking work in the area for about six months. Now, he is approaching 24 years at the university.
“My favorite thing about this place is that I deal with people all day,” Johnson said. “I get to know students from all over the world and work alongside such pleasant people.”
Over the years, Johnson said he has driven every shift and worked overtime in an effort to display his “extra love” toward the Lehigh community.
Johnson said he has never faced a problem with students, even while working more difficult shifts.
Lilian Sen, ‘26, said after discovering the bus as a first-year student, she never walked up the Lehigh hills again. She said her experiences with drivers have always been positive.
“I say hello to all the drivers, who are all very nice and definitely care for us students,” Sen said.
Like Johnson, Vazquez found Lehigh transportation following a career shift.
Originally from Puerto Rico, Vazquez said he came to America when he was 19 years old. His first job was working in a cubicle at Western Electric, which was later bought by AT&T.
After this, Vazquez became a physical therapist for 27 years. He then shifted career paths once more to transportation. He said he has driven medical transportation services, 18-wheeler trucks and, most recently, Lehigh campus buses.
When Vasquez first came to Lehigh, he said he was trained by Johnson, and the two are good friends. Now, they are both trainers for new bus drivers.
Vazquez said he has been working at Lehigh for eight years and the students are one of the most fulfilling aspects of his job.
“The students come in as little high school kids and then graduate,” Vazquez said. “I get to see them grow and become part of my family.”
Vasquez said what originally attracted him to Lehigh was the challenge.
Every day, Vazquez said he arrives to work at 6 a.m. and drives students all around lower campus until 2 p.m.
He said buses sometimes get crowded and busy, but having four other buses transporting students helps.
When Johnson first started at Lehigh, he said bus drivers had to write down the amount of students who entered the bus on paper. They now have new instruments like the counter system.
“Friday’s are usually a smaller day for the buses,” Johnson said. “At the end of my shift at 2 o’clock, I had 296 passengers in one day.”
Vazquez said he drives between 300 and 400 students on the Packer Express daily. He said if he were to estimate, he recognizes or knows about 75% of the passengers.
He said listening to students’ stories and chatting with them is one of his Lehigh highlights. He especially loves learning about students’ different cultures — he discusses different foods and traditions with them.
“The best part of this job is the students,” Vasquez said. “I get to talk to people from different countries, from China to Korea to Japan and even Australia. I have learned so much working here by just talking to these kids alone.”