APTA Bus Roadeo test skills, fosters learning

Posted on May 20, 2013 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

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Thirty-two teams of three from around the U.S. and Canada competed in the mechanics portion of this year’s APTA International Roadeo.
Thirty-two teams of three from around the U.S. and Canada competed in the mechanics portion of this year’s APTA International Roadeo.
While technicians competed in the mechanics portion of the American Public Transportation Association’s (APTA) International Bus Roadeo, the competition provided a wealth of knowledge for the 30-plus teams of three to bring back to their shops.

“It’s just a one-day event, but the benefit of competing in the Roadeo lasts for years,” explained Mark Catenacci, vice chairman, mechanics, at APTA and sr. project designer, vehicle technology at the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA). “These teams are practicing, learning, studying with their teammates and taking this knowledge back home to share with the rest of their co-workers.”

The competition, held this year at Allison Transmission’s test track in Indianapolis in conjunction with APTA’s Bus & Paratransit Conference, includes a 30-minute written Automotive Service Excellence-formatted test with questions split between general knowledge, engines, HVAC systems, brakes, electronics and transmissions.

Following testing, teams then performed a vehicle inspection where 14 equipment-related defects were planted on or in a bus that would make a bus operationally unready. Defects are of a type that a mechanic should find during a minor maintenance inspection.

“The Roadeo tests skills, like vehicle inspections, that our technicians perform every day,” said Jose A. Tovar, director, maintenance, for Texas’ Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority (CCTA). “It is just their job, but it gives them the ability to show how well they do it day in and day out.”

The teams of three, which this year represented 28 states and three Canadian provinces, then competed in seven different modules, testing their skills on everything from two different power train pairings to brake systems and HVAC and multiplex systems to gauges and doors.

“What I learn from competing in the Roadeo is the way my technicians think and how they approach a problem, especially as it pertains to troubleshooting or diagnosing an issue,” said Joe Diaz, maintenance technical coordinator for San Antonio’s VIA Metropolitan Transit. “What is their frame of mind and path of logic? After finding that out, I can then assess where our training failed or succeeded.”

James Mashburn of the Ala.-based Birmingham-Jefferson County Transit Authority, who was competing in the competition for the fifth time in his 35-year career, said the great thing about competing in the Roadeo is coming in not knowing what you’ll learn.

“You are always going to learn something, you just wait and see what opens up Pandora’s Box, so to speak, and exposes what you haven’t ever seen or learned,” he said.

Catenacci explained the wealth of knowledge technicians learn and are exposed to at the Roadeo also helps them further excel in their careers as well as at their current jobs.

“This event has really become a launch pad for many technicians to move upward,” he said. “It really just pays off to be able to test your skills and learn by taking part in a large event such as this.”

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