Rush Enterprises’ annual Tech Skills Rodeo is beloved within the Rush Truck Center technician community.
The Rodeo’s consistently impressive haul of monetary awards and prizes earn the event some of its adulation, but in chatting with several technicians at the 13th annual event Monday in San Antonio, it’s clear that for a lot of them, the networking among colleagues and with suppliers is sometimes as rewarding and valuable as the trophies and free TVs.
The Rush Tech Skills Rodeo isn’t about winning, it’s about making everyone in the company better.
Rush Truck Center – Orlando Technician Phil Call is competing in the Tech Skills Rodeo for the third time in four years since joining the company. Competing the Alternative Fuels contest, Call said while he enjoys competing against his fellow natural gas pros, the Tech Skills Rodeo also offers him the chance to literally talk shop with those contemporaries about common service events and best practices for tricky repairs that are popping up in the field. Conversations he has in December often help him throughout the following year.
“I get calls from other technicians and I’ll call them as well when I have problems in the field,” said Call, who serves as a mobile service technician. He added being a good tech “is not just about knowing the right answers but also knowing where to find the right answers.”
Rush Truck Center – San Antonio Technician William Bodin said he enjoys interacting with his fellow competitors and the supplier judges. Regarding the latter, because Rush Enterprises allows its supplier partners to design and administer the tests related to their products, Bodin (who also is competing in Alternative Fuels) said he enjoys working on equipment while a subject matter expert stands just a couple feet away.
“I think that is a huge benefit for the guys who come to work for Rush,” he said. “You can come here and have these experiences.”
There are other perks, too.
Javier Gonzalez, also from Rush Truck Center’s San Antonio flagship store, said he enjoys the setting and excitement that comes from the competition setting. Gonzalez said working efficiently is an everyday challenge for any technician — customers need their trucks back on the road as quickly as possible — but the 45-minute deadline given for repairs at the Tech Skills Rodeo helps spur his focus and determination to new heights.
“It probably sounds weird but I was actually a little more relaxed [today],” he said, “because I know the truck here in the shop is a lot newer, a lot cleaner and easier to work on than some of what we see in the shop every day … Sometimes we don’t know what is going to be under the hood until we open it. There are trucks where sometimes it looks like the truck was pulled out of a swamp.”
Jerry Carpenter said he also finds motivation in the timed competition. The Rush Truck Center – Charlotte technician has competed at the Tech Skills Rodeo every year since 2008. Though he doesn’t find the contest deadline quite as inspirational as Gonzalez, Carpenter said he does appreciate the way it forces technicians to evaluate every decision they make to complete a repair in a reasonable about of time.
“When you’re struggling on something it feels like the time is gone before you get anything done but that’s the way the competition is set up,” he said. “But it is exciting because you think to yourself, ‘Hey, if I can get this thing fixed in 45 minutes I’ll be doing really well.’”
The hands-on competition demands technicians remember their training and the processes suppliers develop to complete a repair, added 2013 Tech Skills Challenge Grand Champion Jason Swann of Rush Truck Center – Dallas. Swann, who is competing in the Heavy Duty, Eaton category this year, said that focus on process was one of the first things he learned when he started competing in the Rodeo.
“What you do in the shop may not necessarily be what you do here,” he said. “If I’m at home and I have an active fault code on a component and I see that it is unplugged, once I plug it in and it works, I’m done. You can’t do that here.”
UPDATE: The following technicians and parts associates advanced from Monday’s semifinal competition to Tuesday’s final round.
- Jeremy Stevens, Rush Truck Center – Jacksonville
- Travis Webster, Rush Truck Center – Houston Medium-Duty
- William Bodin, Rush Truck Center – San Antonio
- Will Young, Rush Truck Center – Oklahoma City
- Nicholas Misch, Rush Truck Center – San Antonio
- Jay Seibech, Rush Truck Center – Dallas
- Matthew Thomas, Rush Truck Center – College Station
- Robert LaValley, Rush Truck Center – Flagstaff
- Paul Serr, Rush Truck Center – Denver
- Jason Swann, Rush Truck Center – Dallas
- Curtis Lihan, Rush Truck Center – Asheville
- Andrew Schonauer, Rush Truck Center – Indianapolis
- Brandon Sloan, Rush Truck Center – Salt Lake City
- Bradley Biesecker, Rush Truck Center – Abilene
- Glenn Boothe, Rush Truck Center – Nashville
- Mark Craver, Rush Truck Center – Mobile
- Daniel Amos, Rush Truck Center – Phoenix
- Byron Holmes, Rush Truck Center – Champaign
- Joseph Behrend, Rush Truck Center – Idaho Falls
- Jason Summers, Rush Truck Center – Flagstaff
- Steven Brain, Rush Truck Center – Dallas Medium-Duty
- Billy Stanley, Rush Truck Center – Houston Medium-Duty
- Brennen Commons, Rush Truck Center – Dallas Light- and Medium-Duty
- Rick Nonamaker, Rush Truck Center – Waco
- Justin Euler, Rush Truck Center – St. Peters
- Dustin Stephens, Rush Truck Center – St. Louis
- Johnny Mendez, Rush Truck Center – San Antonio
- Brian Smith, Rush Truck Center – Austin
Parts Finalists (representing all parts categories)
- Thomas Ell, Rush Truck Center – Orlando Light- and Medium-Duty
- Eric Hauser, Rush Truck Center – Fontana Medium-Duty
- Quintin Likely, Rush Truck Center – Columbus, GA
- Matthew Turpin, Rush Truck Center – Smyrna
- Rick Welch, Rush Truck Center – Lubbock