Getting buses ready to pull out of the garage on time means Metro Transit’s technicians are always aware of the clock. This week, a friendly competition put a group of technicians on an even more challenging timeline.
Inside one of Metro Transit’s bus maintenance facilities, 15 technicians participated in a skills competition known as the Bus Maintenance Roadeo. On teams of three, the technicians battled for bragging rights and the chance to test their skills against peers from across the country in an upcoming national competition.
To identify top finishers, the teams completed a series of timed exercises that tested their ability to identify and fix a range of mechanical issues that had been set up in advance.
“The most difficult problems are the ones that at first glance might look like something else,” said Mike Joyce, assistant director of bus maintenance. “Under time pressure, a technician might jump to a solution too quickly.”
Some of the issues the teams encountered were familiar, while others represented curveballs designed to throw technicians for a loop. Among the biggest challenges, though, was time. In most cases, technicians had less than ten minutes to complete an exercise.
“You think you’re prepared for the time crunch until you’re in it,” first-time competitor Devon Durow said. “Ten minutes goes by fast when you’re working on a bus.”
Durow’s team included another relative newcomer, Ravie Sawh, and 25-year technician Dan Aasen, who has competed in eight Bus Maintenance Roadeos.
Technicians Gary Gauthier, Trent DeVries and Chris Antholz emerged as the winners with a total score that was almost 200 points above the second-place team. They will now go on to compete in the 2020 International Bus Roadeo hosted by the American Public Transportation Association.
At the international competition, bus operators will also be put to the test on a driving skills course. East Metro Operator David Palm will represent Metro Transit in the international competition this May.
To prepare for the international competition, technicians will continue practicing and study the different makes and models they might encounter. While having know-how is important, technicians who work well together are often the most successful.
“Roadeos are won and lost by teamwork,” said Matt Dake, director of bus maintenance. “Teams with good communication perform better than teams with a go-it-alone mechanic.”
Metro Transit will host APTA's International Bus Roadeo in 2021. The agency also takes credit for initiating the original concept in the 1970s.
Trent Devries, Chris Antholz and Gary Gauthier celebrate their victory with Matthew Dake, director of bus maintenance, and Mike Joyce, assistant director of bus maintenance.