Big money

| February 01, 2007

If technicians followed the steps laid out in the computer program, discovering the bug was easy, says Ken Carter, service manager at the Oklahoma City Rush Truck Center. But if they tried to tackle the problem mechanically, they were lost.

Today’s successful truck technicians have to understand how mechanical and electrical systems are integrated, Hughes says. “You have to read one to understand the other.”

The first phase of the skills rodeo consisted of three divisions – Caterpillar, Cummins and Eaton – with 15 technicians competing in each.

Caterpillar engineers developed six bugs for that company’s test, but the most any technician found was three. “We made it tough,” says Darrel Phelps, a Caterpillar judge. Contestants also received points for doing a general inspection and knowing how to use Caterpillar’s online service information and diagnostic tools.

During the Eaton test, contestants had to use a computer program to diagnose a common failure and then update the transmission’s software. Contestant Pat Wall says he found the failure but didn’t have time to update the software. All the tests had a 45-minute time limit. “I learned that I need to be quicker,” he says.

One major flaw and several minor ones, including a bad sensor and an electrical short, made up the Cummins test.

Contestants with the top three scores in each division won cash prizes of $2,500 to $5,000 and participated in the final. Swann won that competition and an additional $5,000. The 25-year-old from Rush’s Dallas dealership is modest about his accomplishment. “I didn’t know I had a talent,” he says. “There were plenty of guys there as good as me.”

Bilbo says Rush held the skills rodeo to reward technicians for the important role they play in the business. “Any good salesman can sell one truck to a customer,” he says. “The second truck is sold by the technician.”
–Olivia Grider

Furry Tour Guide
His adventure began as a fun way to teach geography to sixth-graders, but after 10 years and 100,000 miles, a little bulldog named AMS has become a legend in Trucker Buddy history.

AMS, the doggy mascot of Antigo Middle School in Antigo, Wis., is more than just a stuffed toy for teacher Connie Miller and her sixth-grade class. Apart from this day job, AMS is a globetrotter, a hobby that began a decade ago when Miller decided to become a part of the Trucker Buddy Program.

Trucker Buddy pairs truck drivers with elementary and middle-school teachers to teach kids about U.S. geography. Miller, who is blind, and driver Thurley Riley began their Trucker Buddy relationship with the usual correspondence: postcards, letters and packages of small gifts delivered from the road to the classroom.

Riley also visited to give the kids a tour of her rig, and at the school she found one buddy who wanted to go for a ride – and not just a temporary one.

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