For the first time last summer in the NAPT America's Best School Bus Inspector and Technician Skills and Training Competition came to Canada.
It was produced in conjunction with the annual conference presented by The Association of School Transportation Services of British Columbia and was held at the Sun Peaks ski resort. Representing America's Best was Marshall Casey, who is scheduled to appear again this year and present the Tech Challenge and Bus Inspector's challenge to attending school bus technicians from British Columbia. Additionally, Alberta is reportedly interested in holding training and sending winners to the America’s Best competition at NAPT in the fall.
A big focus of the event is on vehicle diagnostics that has flooded the industry via factory telematics offerings from school bus manufacturers and their technology partners.
“Telematics allows a school bus technician to view diagnostic trouble codes on any fleet vehicle in real time without having to go out on a service call not knowing what to expect,” said Rick Horning, 2015 America's Best tech challenge winner ASTSBC conference.
So we asked Casey for specifics on how the latest telematics technology is affecting training and changing the role of technicians as well the America's Best program.
School Transportation News: How is the role of the school bus technician changing with the availability of telematics for diagnostics?
Casey: Telematics makes early detection of problems possible. This allows technicians to review event data as soon as a problem is detected and make decisions on whether it is safe for the bus to continue the route or if the driver should find a safe place to pull over and await assistance.
Additionally when we can review real data on things like rapid acceleration and rapid deceleration it allows technicians to better understand things like reduced fuel economy and increased brake wear. This can lead to improved training for drivers and reduced maintenance cost/repairs.
STN: How has technology changed the format for America's Best?
Casey: Advancing technology has changed some of the components for which we provide training on as well as some of the diagnostic workstations for our competitors. When multiplex wiring was introduced into school buses; we started providing training and workstations on these systems. We have also provided training and workstations on computer diagnostics for engines, transmissions and brakes.
STN: What do the techs learn and take away with them after the competition?
Casey: While America's Best is best known for being a competition; what we hope that all participants take away is that it's really more about the training opportunities and networking with others in the industry. We tell them all of the time that the best tool they can ever put in their tool box is not one that they have to buy. It is a resource that you can go to for information and assistance when you are having a problem. Some of the best resources available are sitting in the room with you.
STN: What is your goal with the expansion of America's Best into Canada?
Casey: Our goal for expanding the America's Best program into Canada is just to continue broadening our reach across the school transportation industry, providing training and guidance toward our ultimate goal of school bus safety. Yes, we want to continue raising awareness for the tremendous job that our technicians and inspectors do every single day. But, as we like to say with America's Best our mission is: “Making School Buses Safer – One Bus at a Time”
I have been blessed to have been part of the America's Best program since it's inception. To see the program continue to grow and to now reach into other countries is very exciting. The efforts that go into this program are greatly rewarded with the feeling of having enhanced the safety of school buses.
STN: What is the feedback you've been getting from participants?
Casey: One of the most enjoyable parts of being involved with America's Best is returning home over the next couple of weeks getting notes form the participants expressing their appreciation for the program. I often get comments about how the training was immediately beneficial to a problem they were having or how they talked with another participant that provided information on a similar problem. If there is a single theme to the responses I receive; it is that they are all looking forward to their next “America's Best” experience.
Read more from Casey in the February magazine edition of School Transportation News, as he writes about the evolution of training for school bus technicians.