Winners announced in annual Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo


Rush Truck Centers, the largest commercial vehicle dealer group in North America, held its 7th annual Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo last week in San Antonio, TX.

The event is an intense competition wherein Rush Truck Centers technicians test their skill level against one another.

This year, the event’s skill areas were, as in previous Tech Skills Rodeos, heavy duty vehicles and medium duty vehicles. New this year was testing on CNG (compressed natural gas)/LNG (liquefied natural gas) power, called Go Green.

Rush’s 1,400 technicians from it 70 locations in 14 states who meet certain training requirements qualify to take written exams in the three test areas.

For this year’s event, 400 technicians took 900 exams. From this group, the top 80 with the highest scores in the three test areas qualified to compete in the hands-on portion of the Tech Skills Rodeo in San Antonio.

Any technician that qualified in more than one competition division had to pick one area to compete in.

At the Tech Skills Rodeo, the qualifying 80 technicians competed for the 20 finalist spots from which the top technicians are determined.

The Grand Champions receive each valuable prizes and cash, plus a bump up in their hourly pay of $1 an hour.

More than $150,000 in cash and prizes were awarded at the awards banquet.


Test categories

The medium duty skills competition consisted of the Hino, International, Isuzu and Peterbilt categories.

The heavy duty competition was made up of the Eaton, Cummins, MaxxForce and Paccar MX categories.

The Go Green competition dealt with CNG and LNG powered vehicles.

In addition to the hands-on testing, all competitors had to take three wildcard exams that covered Caterpillar, Delo and Dana Spicer products.

They also were required to participate in 10 training classes, plus informational exhibits put on by various industry suppliers and vendors, including Noregon Systems, Jost International, Safety-Kleen, Penray, Peterbilt and Mobil Delvac.

The intent here is to expose technicians to the latest updates from the company’s vendors and suppliers.


Other tests

Once again, as part of the Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo, Jost held its Fastest Hands at the Rodeo competition. Participants compete in a mock rebuild of the top plate on a stand-mounted Just fifth wheel.

Also held again was Beyer Racing’s Fastest Time Competition. In this event, compete on a racing simulator.

In both competitions, participants with the fastest times win cash prizes.


The organization

Headquartered in New Braunfels, TX, Rush Truck Centers is North America’s largest network of heavy and medium duty truck dealerships. It handles Autocar, Ford, Hino Trucks, International, Isuzu, Peterbilt, Mitsubishi Fuso, Kalmar, McNeilus and UD Trucks, as well as IC Bus, Blue Bird, Elkhart Coach and Jerr-Dan towing and recovery equipment.

The company has a mobile service division, operates 27 collision centers and has its own proprietary parts and accessories line for all makes of heavy duty trucks, called Rig Tough Truck Parts.

Rush Truck Centers account for about 5 percent of heavy truck sales and about 4 percent of medium duty truck sales in the U.S.


The skills competition

The hands-on testing is set up to be real world, except for the judges that follow the competitor’s every move, said Mike Besson, vice president, service operations, Rush Truck Centers, who oversees the Tech Skills Rodeo.

He pointed out that the judges are not looking for the fastest times, but rather grade the competitors on how well they follow the repair path.

It is not enough to just fix a problem, explained Besson, because the technician may have just gotten lucky. The idea is to make sure the technician follows the troubleshooting trees.


Service commitment

The technician’s commitment to continuous improvement and their willingness to sharpen their skills enhances the service experience for Rush Truck Centers’ customers, said Besson. The Tech Skills Rodeo is one of the ways the company works to keep its technicians motivated to continue their development and professional growth, which helps with technician retention and loyalty.

In his remarks at the awards ceremony, W. M. “Rusty” Rush, president and CEO of Rush Enterprises, of which Rush Truck Centers is a subsidiary, emphasized just how important technicians are to the continuing growth and success the dealerships.

“Thank you for being a part of our family,” said Rush. “We don’t have a chance to say thank you often enough.

“The heartbeat of our dealerships is all that you technicians do. You take care of the customer and support the dealership.

“We’re the best because of people like you.”

“The skills and knowledge of high level technicians is a key to Marten Transport’s success,” Randy Marten, CEO of Marten Transport, a premier supplier of time and temperature sensitive transportation services to all 48 states, Canada and Mexico, said in his remarks at the Tech Skills Rodeo awards banquet. “You understand the importance of getting trucks back up and running quickly.”

The company is a long-time customer of Rush Truck Centers.


The winners

The Medium Duty Grand Champion for the 2012 Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo was John Dobberpuhl, Denver; total winnings $19,500.

Heavy Duty Grand Champion was Jason Swann, Dallas; $20,000 in winnings. He also earned the title of Heavy Duty Grand Champion in the 2006 and 2008 Tech Skills Rodeo.

Each Grand Champion also received a large trophy for display in their dealership. The trophy is inscribed with their names, along with the names of the previous Grand Champions.

Taking second place in medium duty was Steve Brain, Dallas, $10,000; heavy duty, Mike Jones, Tucson, $11,000.

The top finalist in the medium duty competition was Pieter Dezwart, Doraville, $6,500; heavy duty, Randy Hughes, Texarkana, $8,500.

Taking the top spots in the Go Green competition were Gonzalo Uribe, Fontana, $5,000, and Adam Hillard, Charlotte, $4,000.