A Rush Tech Skills Rodeo first: Two women techs compete

Updated Dec 14, 2022
A woman in a black shirt and black cowboy hat holds up a belt buckle.
Kelby Moore, from Rush Truck Center-Beaumont, holds up her finalist belt buckle at the Rush Truck Center Tech Skills Rodeo in San Antonio.
Beth Colvin

When Jody Pollard, senior vice president of truck sales and aftermarket sales, announced that this year’s Rush Truck Centers Tech SkillsRodeo in San Antonio would have two female technicians, the place erupted.

[RELATED: Rusty Rush names retention, training as top challenges]

“That’s cool,” one technician said, craning his neck to get a better look at the two women, who were asked to stand and be recognized. These are their stories.

Kelby Moore, Beaumont, Texas

Kelby Moore doesn’t do big clutch jobs anymore.

Since her double mastectomy surgery, she’s lost a lot of chest muscle, and finds the 13,000-pound transmission hard to move.

Wait, did she say 13,000? She meant 1,300.

She’s also battling short-term memory issues from the chemotherapy that eventually, along with the surgery, sent her breast cancer into remission. It causes her sometimes to pick the wrong word in a sentence.

Which makes it all the more amazing that she’s one of 200 Rush Truck Center techs competing in the national Rush Tech Rodeo in San Antonio. She’s one of the few that made it — 2,000 Rush employees took 3,400 tests, and these 200 are the best of the best.

Moore, from the Rush Truck Center in Beaumont, Texas, tested on a heavy-duty PACCAR engine.

[RELATED: See the winners of the 2022 Rush Tech Skills Rodeo]

“I did OK,” Moore says, peering from under a flowered ball cap with a tag that says Afghan veteran. “I made it here. That’s fantastic in itself.”

From the Army to the service bay

Moore joined the Army in 2007 and was deployed to Afghanistan, where she was a driver. Whenever her truck broke down, she would quiz the mechanics about what was wrong with it.

Oh, that’s another thing. It was her Army Reserve weekend just before the rodeo kicked off Dec. 11, so she was worn down from reporting for duty, then driving from Beaumont to San Antonio.

When Moore got out of active duty, staying with trucks was a natural move. She went to school at the Universal Technical Institute and went through Peterbilt’s Peterbilt Technician Institute.

“Trucks to me are a big logic puzzle,” she says.

Moore was a shop foreman with Rush’s leasing shop before her husband, a mobile technician, convinced her to move over to the truck center.  There, instead of just newer Peterbilts — “they all have the same problems” — she got to work on all the brands and all kinds of challenges, everything that came in the door.

“They do things so much better”

Her background with the Army keeps most of the expected jeers at bay, “but I’m not going to say it never happens,” Moore said. Some drivers don’t want a female technician touching their truck. But, for others, it’s the only one they want.

A car hauler came in, Moore said, and asked for her specifically. His reasoning? Female techs are more meticulous and work harder to get where they are.

“Female techs are just awesome,” Moore says the driver said. “They do things so much better.”

Working on the road

Moore is now a mobile tech, working from a truck directly for the client instead of at the shop.

Those techs, Rush Truck Center Service Manager AJ White says, are the ones he trusts more.

“Here,” White says, meaning the shop, “you have eight people and two walls between you and the customer. Out there (on the road), it’s just you. You’re service, parts, warranty, sales, everybody.”

A good service technician answers and completes their calls, he says. A great one not only completes their calls, they find more business when they’re deployed. White gave an example of responding to a client for a check engine light, then noticing the client has Peterbilts on the lot and offering to fix them under a recall campaign or to do their regular maintenance on a day the client chooses.

“Those techs make bank,” he says.

[RELATED: Rising Stars program targets entry-level technicians]

Moore has been on the road since October. Her husband, who has been a Rush Truck Center mobile tech for eight years, has helped her with the transition, even though they approach their work with their own style.

“We do the same job in completely different ways,” she says, adding that he has helped her decide what parts and tools to keep on the truck and which to leave in the shop.

Moore likes the creativity and freedom of working on the truck.

White says that mobile techs like Moore represent an opportunity for growth for the company. Rush can get as many trucks as they can keep busy for far less than it would cost to build new service bays.

A woman works on the fender of a truck.Se'ara Hart of Boise, Idaho, works on a truck hood during a paint competition in the Rush Tech Rodeo in San Antonio.Rush Enterprises

Se’ara Hart, Boise, Idaho

Se’ara Hart doesn’t know how she got into this line of work, exactly.

It seems it started with a love of loud Japanese cars with flashy paint jobs, which led to a program in high school, “but I didn’t take it seriously.” She graduated a year early and then, maybe, it was time to get serious. She went to a local college program for two years and now, at 21, she’s painting medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

“I never imagined I’d be doing this,” Hart says, laughing. “I really like it a lot.”

Variety brings challenges

Hart likes the variety that working at Rush Truck Center brings. She could be painting a truck or a school bus.

“It’s like I’m doing something different every day. I’m always trying to challenge myself,” Hart says, adding that she loves learning something in the process.

[RELATED: Spouses support Rush technicians through testing process]

Management is another big reason why Hart stays with Rush.

“Everyone they hire wants the best for everyone, not just themselves,” Hart says. And while she loves what she does, Hart thinks the field could use a few good women.

“So I can have more friends,” she says, quickly adding that, really, women are good with things like color and matching color, so could be naturally good at this job.

The competition

Which brings us to the Tech Rodeo paint challenge — a truck hood in three colors, all metallic. Blue, silver and orange. Ernest Lopez, manager of the body shop at the Rush Truck Center in San Antonio where the paint competition took place, said Axalta, the company’s paint line, picked its three most challenging colors.

The hoods were painted then damaged with scratches that the techs had to sand out and blend. Oh, and they weren’t given the proper paint codes, so they had to figure those out, too.

“It was very hard for everyone,” Hart says. “It was very challenging but a good challenging.”

The painters, who competed at Rush Truck Centers’ San Antonio shop (for some reason, the Convention Center frowned on the competitors spraying paint on the show floor), were judged on everything they did, Hart says.

“It’s difficult not to overthink it,” she says. “Yesterday, I was feeling pretty good … .”

Hart lets the sentence trail off, deep in thought.

“Honestly, I would love to be even in second place.”  

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