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.”[PAGEBREAK]
This year, SEPTA won the overall Grand Champion Award, which recognizes the system with the highest combined bus operator and maintenance team combined score. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) took second place overall achievement honors, while the team from Orange County (Calif.) Transportation Authority (OCTA) won third place overall achievement honors. SEPTA also won the maintenance competition with OCTA and Metro finishing second and third, respectively.
In the 40-foot bus competition, Paul Klimesh of Iowa-based Ames Transit Agency was named best driver in North America, beating out 50 other competitors to win first place. Taking second place in the 40-foot bus competition was Daniel R. Schmidt of Ben Franklin Transit in Richland, Wash., while third place was claimed by SEPTA’s Zenon Rinylo.
In the 35-foot bus competition, Gabriel Beliz of Ben Franklin Transit won first place as the best bus operator in North America, beating out 17 of other competitors. Taking second place was Julian Carranza Jr. of CCTA, while third place went to the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s Howard Yoder.
“Each team and driver that competed in the Roadeo should be proud to be here, because they worked hard to get here,” said Tovar. “The number of teams here competing, though, really says a lot about the agencies throughout our industry and how good of a job they are doing to cultivate talent.”