The APTA International Roadeo drives home safety

Operators and mechanics lay it on the line in Cleveland

By David Hubbard

The goal of the APTA International Roadeo is to provide the most equitable competition possible to showcase and encourage the highest degree of professionalism in bus operators and mechanics.

Prior to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) Bus and Paratransit Conference each year, the anxiously- awaited APTA International Bus Roadeo summons the best and brightest operators and mechanics from transit systems across North America to put their reputations and skills on the line in a series of competitions that accent safe driving and vehicle maintenance.

APTA sees this four-day competitive event mirroring the knowledge, skill and pride that work bus operators and mechanics must possess to provide transit customers with safe and reliable service.
Awards go to the top drivers and mechanics in each area of the competition, while the transit system with the highest combined score for the bus operator and bus mechanic takes home the coveted International Bus Roadeo overall grand prize. APTA honors the winners at the Roadeo Banquet.

Here is an overview of the competition, taken from the pages of the official APTA Roadeo Handbook:

To participate in the APTA International Bus Roadeo contestants must qualify as full-time or part-time employees of an APTA or Community Transportation Association of America (CTAA) member transit system, and work be working the field in which they are competing. They must possess a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and meet all employer guidelines.

The four-day event begins with an orientation of the course layout, which the operators can review and run one time before the competition, which officials strongly encourage.

The Operator/Maintenance Team Competition

The first place winners in the competitions involving 35- to 40-ft vehicles each receive $1,000 cash award, a plaque and a Champion’s ring, while sponsors of the Maintenance events also provide prizes.

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This competition begins with the pre-trip inspection for operators and multiplex troubleshooting for mechanics.

The operator must skillfully maneuver the vehicle in order to identify defects in engine, transmission, brake and HVAC modules. The competition drills down even deeper with the mandatory pre-trip inspection, a scored event for which operators cannot practice.

Operators are judged on appearance and driving skills only; not with a safety quiz or defective bus test.

Operators interested in competing in the Customer Service Challenge must participate in a face-to-face 10-minute interview with the judging panel.

Operators must be in the full regulation uniform of their transit system for competition inspection.

The course layout takes drivers through every likely condition encountered on city streets. Judges use hand-held technology to measure braking and cornering forces that come to bear on a smoothness of operation score as the driver attempts to navigate the obstacles; points are deducted for touching the cones or the curb and otherwise not completing the course as designed.

Judges time the operator for each driving event ending with the judgment stop, allotting seven minutes to complete the course layout. An operator has a maximum of 10 minutes to complete the course and incurs a one-point deduction for each second over the seven minutes.

The judges also evaluate the operator’s personal appearance for neatness, cleanliness and professionalism, which counts for 50 points in the scoring. The contestant must report wearing the uniform appropriate for his/her transit system.

Pre-trip inspection event

The pre-trip inspection event features eight equipment-related defects and one security hazard planted on or in a bus that make a bus operationally unready or unsafe.

The defects are of a type that an operator would find while a performing a pre-trip inspection. Eligible defects might include broken, loose, bad, missing or incorrectly installed parts and components. In this event, the identification of defects does not require starting the bus or crawling under the bus.

Each operator has seven minutes to inspect, locate, identify and legibly record any defects found. Points are awarded only for those recorded defects that the judges planted.

Operators’ obstacle course

The eleven driving obstacles test the operator’s ability to negotiate tight turns and are worth 50 points each. The judges warn that reckless use of equipment and flagrant disregard for the safety of others may result in immediate disqualification.

The customer service challenge

The Customer Service Challenge is an optional event and not part of the Roadeo. It is scored separately and the results do not count in the Roadeo competition score.

To compete in this event, each participant first meets with the judging panel in a preliminary 10-minute interview.

Maintenance competition events

Maintenance teams normally consist of three maintenance employees. Two member maintenance teams may compete but must compete without concessions.

The Maintenance Competition Events include a written test and vehicle inspection.

Transit mechanics diagnose and repair complaints of low power, excessive smoke, harsh shifting and other performance-related problems as a measure of their own knowledge, skills and abilities.

The written test includes 50 questions and team members have 30 minutes to answer. For the vehicle inspection, the mechanics must find 14 equipment-related defects planted on or in the bus that would take it out of service. Defects are of a type that a mechanic should find during a minor maintenance inspection without starting the engine or crawling under the bus.

25 points are awarded for each planted defect found, with a maximum of 350 points. Points will be awarded only for those recorded defects that were planted by the judges.

The teams then troubleshoot similarly planted inefficiencies in components supplied by APTA Roadeo sponsors.

Detroit Diesel/Allison Power Train and Cummins/Voith Power Train

In these similar events, the judges plant seven defects or problems related to engine and transmission malfunctions, one of which will render the engine inoperable — meaning it will either not start or will not maintain an idle of 700 rpm. In this event, a team may attempt to start the engine any time to check for defects.

Truck Trailer Transit/Bendix Air Brake System (ABS)

Using a fully-functional air brake system with Antilock Brake System (ABS) components, the system is functional with the exception of the air compressor.

The team will be timed as they diagnose an electrical component using a digital volt ohm meter (DVOM).

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The team then inspects, locates, identifies and records six planted defects and their locations. They are mechanical in nature and not air line or connection leaks, nor do they require the system to be repaired, taken apart or disconnected.

Thermo King HVAC IntelligAIRE

The competition is conducted on a fully operational bus air conditioning maintenance training simulator. One defect will render the A/C system inoperable, meaning the 20 hp electric motor driving the compressor/alternator is running but the A/C does not operate. The team only needs to correct that one defect, which may be mechanical or electrical in nature. Leakage of a refrigerant or oil is not considered a defect.

MCI Multiplex Module

This competition is conducted on two Motor Coach Industries (MCI) I/O boards, equipped with I/OT2 Control Multiplex electrical system with seven electrically related defects inserted in the I/O electrical board. The team will be allotted seven minutes to inspect, troubleshoot, diagnose and legibly record the planted defects a possible of 350 points.  BR