TENNERTON — An Upshur County Schools bus mechanic won a state competition to punch his ticket to the 2017 America’s Best School Bus Technician event in November.
Rick Wentz competed July 19 in West Virginia’s Best Tech-Inspect Competition put on by the West Virginia Association for Pupil Transportation in Wheeling A separate competition was held for inspectors.
“The contest is for all school transportation employees in the state of West Virginia who have been employed for a year,” he said. “There were eight who competed in my class.”
The technician competition consisted of a written exam and three different stations with problems to solve — each with a 15-minute time limit.
“They gave you a scenario and you had to pick out the picture of the item that would repair that problem,” he said of the first station.
A second station involved answering questions about a digital volt meter. The third station involved trouble shooting problems from an electrical board and other components on a school bus.
Wentz received the first-place technician award.
“I was kind of surprised,” he said. “I did it a couple years ago and didn’t place.”
Now Wentz and Upshur County Schools’ transportation supervisor Randy Hardman are making plans to go to Columbus, Ohio for the national competition to be held the first weekend in November.
Wentz has his Automotive Service Excellence Master School Bus Certification and will read through that again to brush up on sections he doesn’t deal with all the time, he added.
Wentz has been employed by Upshur County Schools for 28 years and works with a team of mechanics responsible for maintaining the 60-bus fleet plus maintenance vehicles.
There are three full-time mechanics and two part-time mechanics.
In addition to troubleshooting problems as they arise, the mechanics have a schedule for preventive maintenance, Wentz said.
“Each month, every bus is pulled in for what we call PM and gets checked out, the oil changed if needed and a basic safety inspection done,” he said. “We do all in-house repairs with the exception of warranty work.”
On any given day, that could be rebuilding an engine, patching a bus seat, narrowing down why a check engine light is on and more. There are 47 regular runs, Wentz added.
Hardman said all the mechanics are excellent but its Wentz’s know-how that helps as school buses come with more computer components.
“If it wasn’t for him, we would have to farm this stuff out,” he said.