The Piece the Industry Doesn't Get to See

June 3, 2013
Operator and maintenance roadeo competitions give operators and mechanics motivation throughout the year to stay focused on training and provide learning opportunities that last throughout the year.

Prior to putting together this June issue the Mass Transit team was at the American Public Transportation Association’s Bus and Paratransit Conference. While there, we had a chance to get a closer look at the International Bus Roadeo’s maintenance competition.
For those not familiar, the bus roadeo includes competition events for bus operators and bus maintenance teams and takes place the Sunday prior to the Bus and Paratransit Conference. There are awards for each area and there is an overall grand prize award for the system with the highest combined score for operator and maintenance team.
While one team I talked to said their local press referred to the event as wasting money playing games, talking to the people there and watching what they’re doing, you can see that it’s anything but. Not only are there skills being tested under pressure at the competition, contestants, trainers and managers talked about the year-round training that do and how for many of them, being able to attend and compete is a huge motivating factor. In addition to the training, there’s networking with peers that they learn from and there are classes and sessions during the conference where they are not only learning but having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with the suppliers, which is an opportunity they don’t typically have.
APTA International Bus Roadeo Chair Mike Hennessy and Vice Chair Mark Catenacci took us behind the scenes at the maintenance competition to see the skills being tested in each of the seven events. Due to the number of teams competing, there were two simultaneous tents for each event to accommodate everyone.
Maintenance teams can consist of up to three members and they are walked into each tent where the skills test is waiting for them. Behind one tent was an entire bus while others had specific components, such as doors, air conditioning units, engines, multiplex systems or transmissions.
On the wall is a timer and as soon as they’re ready and cross the line, the time starts. Different events have different times, but it’s between about 7 and 10 minutes for each event. There is often a critical failure for them to find, which prevents the equipment from operating at all, and then there are seven or so lesser issues for them to find. For each item they find, they score points.
One thing Hennessy stressed is, “This is the piece the industry doesn’t get to see.” With the maintenance events being held behind tents as the maintenance teams compete, you literally don’t get to see the event, itself. However, with the permission from the various teams, they let us in so we could showcase what it is these mechanics work so hard for. Our cameras were in there to get a glimpse at the competition and to hear more from Hennessy and Catenacci about the event, and also from folks from Allison Transmission who hosted the event, view the MTtv episode at