Trucks at Work

A visit to the rodeo …

So I headed west this week; all the way to San Antonio, TX, to observe Rush Truck Center’s 2012 Technician Skills Rodeo in action.

Though today’s truck and engine technicians rely far more heavily on computers and other electronic diagnostic equipment to get equipment back up and running, the job still often calls for some serious mechanical know-how.

That’s why one of the suppliers helping Rush Truck Centers fund the annual Rodeo event – in this case, Eaton Corp. – went “old school” with its test, posing a complex back-end transmission reconstruction task followed by accurate driveline angle measurement.

Below you can watch Matt Cearnal (pronounced “Ker-nail” by the way; I mispronounce it several times in the video … sorry!) from Rush’s Oklahoma City facility work his way through the Eaton’s transmission testing station:

A new testing station appeared this year at the Rodeo, one that Mike Besson, Rush’s VP-service operations said poses a critical new skill test for his company’s technicians to master: repairing natural gas-powered trucks.

In the video below, Bobby Conti III out of Rush’s Jacksonville, FL, location takes a stab at trying to fix a Peterbilt Model 365 vocational truck equipped with a Cummins ISL-G 9-liter CNG-powered engine.

Conti told me that this test is actually the first time he’s worked on a real live natural gas powered truck; this alternative fuel technology is so new in his neck of the woods that there isn’t a single CNG filling station in operation yet.

“But I decided to become certified on natural gas because it’s gaining a lot of interest everywhere,” he told me. “Besides, it’s a brand new challenge for me; and I like being challenged.”

Michael Willoughby, another technician from Rush’s Oklahoma City location and someone I’ve tracked through almost every one of these Rodeo events, returned to try and repeat as the “grand champion” in the medium-duty category.

[You can see him try to solve a ticklish multi-part problem on a Peterbilt Model 348 below.]

Unfortunately, though he again was one of only 80 out of 1,400 Rush technicians to win a spot in the Rodeo competition, Willoughby didn’t make it into the final round where 18 competitors will vie for significant prizes, cash bonuses, and hourly pay raises.

“When you see the skills the guys bring here to this event, that’s when you realize just how tough it is to even get here, much less get into the final round,” Willoughby told me.

The Rodeo also features lots of other stuff besides the testing stations, with antique trucks and race cars just some of the interesting sights to be seen.

And of course with such a gathering of technicians schooled in the main on Peterbilt equipment, it’s only fitting that Peterbilt would bring its mobile display highlighting the OEM’s new Model 579 highway tractor to this event.

It’s been an interesting time here in San Antonio, for sure, but the competition isn’t finished. Now we head into the final rounds to see who takes home the title “grand champion” in the heavy- and medium-duty categories. 

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