America’s Best School Bus Competition Set for Seattle in September

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Who will be America’s Best this year? A talent show of sorts — for school bus maintenance and inspection experts — returns this fall, and is hosted by Paccar and the Washington Association for Pupil Transportation.

The 10th Annual America’s Best School Bus Technician and School Bus Inspector Training and Skills Competition, sponsored by NAPT, is scheduled for Sept. 24-27 at the Paccar’s training center and assembly plant in Renton, Wash., and at Federal Way Schools’ transportation facility Other America’s Best sponsors are the National Institute for Automotive Excellence (ASE), Delco Remy, Hydrotex, Thomas Built Buses, Voith, and Zonar. Additional event sponsors for this year are Cummins Northwest, Harlow’s Bus Sales, Seon, Valley Freighliner, Inc., and Western Bus Sales, Inc.

Two likely participants will be shooting for their third consecutive titles in the inspector and technician categories. Last year at the Cummins Engine and Cummins Atlantic facility in Rocky Mount, N.C., Jack Defibaugh of Greenbrier County (W.V.) Schools and Alan Fidler of Tippecanoe School Corporation in Lafayette, Ind., defended their titles in their respective categories. Fidler is scheduled to be a presenter this summer in the STN EXPO’s maintenance track.

The only one of its kind on the national stage for school bus professionals, the event is referred to as both a training and skills competition because participants receive classroom and hands-on training. Training sessions consist of factory tours and workshops taught by school bus manufacturers. Before this year’s event, America’s Best had never previously traveled farther west than San Antonio, the site of the 2011 event.

In the competition, scores are tabulated from written examinations, in which both inspectors and technicians must demonstrate school bus technical proficiency. Inspectors answer 40 questions on inspecting electrical systems, brakes, engines, suspensions, drive trains and body systems. Meanwhile, technicians answer 50 questions similar in scope that are developed and administered by ASE.

Both competitions then include a diagnostics hands-on portion. Inspectors must find 30 defects in and around the bus in 45 minutes. Technicians are given 15 minutes to identify each of the three school-bus components or systems to demonstrate how capable they are of diagnosing, troubleshooting and repairing various mechanical components.