‘America’s Best’ tells the story

Brad Barker
Posted on September 1, 2006

The third annual NAPT “America’s Best” inspectors and technicians competition held in early August at Blue Bird Corp.’s headquarters was a great event.

I say that not because I placed first in the technician competition, but because the effort that went into the event was tremendous. Technicians and inspectors from across the country competed in events reflecting their talents and abilities. Being selected to represent one’s state in a national event such as this is truly a great honor. There were no losers.

For the technician competition, buses were rigged with out-of-service problems that needed to be diagnosed. The competing technicians were divided into groups of three or four, and one group at a time went into the arena. Judges read the problem to the technician just as it would have been reported on a VCR (vehicle condition report) by a driver. The stop watch was set to 15 minutes, and technicians were told to start.

While I was working away — checking components, activating switches, reading wiring and air system schematics and checking circuits — cameras were snapping pictures, video cameras were rolling, people were following your every move, and judges watched intently and recorded results.

No information was given beforehand as to what you could do or could not do, but I found out after a few trials that I was allowed to do about anything I felt necessary, including asking for assistance to operate a switch out of reach.

The pressure was intense. I have never been one to handle extreme pressure outside of the 15 or so projects I usually have going on at any given time during a normal day as shop manager at Park City (Utah) School District.

The first two problems to diagnose were extremely tough, and both came right down to the wire. For the second bus, time was called and I had to drop everything and report my diagnosis and solution to the problem as best I could. It just so happened I was right, although I did not have time to verify my diagnosis.

The third bus I diagnosed was actually the easiest, and I was told after the event I was the only one to get it right. Did I have an edge over the other competitors on this one? Perhaps, perhaps not. It was just a few weeks earlier that I felt the need to review that particular circuit schematic. It just so happened that what I reviewed helped me pull it off.

This is what it means to be a successful technician. Anticipating the problems before they appear takes a lot of careful scrutiny of all components one deals with. It is not an easy task to perform. All of the technicians that represented various states across the nation are just a handful of many extremely knowledgeable individuals doing the same job, day in and day out, that I do. You are all winners in my book. Keep up the good work.



14 states represented

Fourteen states were represented at the annual America’s Best competition — Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Utah and Washington.

Joey Ballentine of Converse School Bus Shop in Spartanburg, S.C., took home the title of America’s Best inspector, while Brad Barker of Park City (Utah) School District claimed first place in the technician division. Both first-place winners received $1,500 each from Zonar Systems and Bus Parts Warehouse, sponsors of the competition.

Second- and third-place honors in the inspection category went to Esteban Rivera of Orange County (Fla.) Public Schools and Ricky Jennings of Wilkes County Schools in Wilkesboro, N.C., respectively. The second- and third-place winners of the technician award were Robert Fordham of Bleckley County (Ga.) Schools and John Sedensky Jr. of James A. Garfield Local Schools in Garrettsville, Ohio, respectively.

Information on how to compete in the 2007 America’s Best competition will be posted soon on the NAPT website at


Related Topics: NAPT

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