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Trango Places Second at Nationals

School bus technicians and school bus inspectors from around the country vied for the top spots in the National Association for Pupil Transportation’s 2011 “America’s Best Technician” and “America’s Best Inspector” competitions, which were held September 27-30. Danny Reed (Beaufort) and Ralph Trango (Wake) represented North Carolina at the annual competition.

The competitions integrated a variety of training sessions, hands-on technical stations and team building exercises for both technicians and inspectors related to components and systems on school buses. They were hosted by the Texas Association of School Bus Technicians at North East Independent School District.

Bryson Nesbitt
Ralph Trango, (pictured in the middle) a Wake County Transportation Department Team Leader and ASE Master School Bus Technician, placed 2nd nationally in the hands-on technician event. This was Ralph’s first attempt at the America’s Best event.

The following is a description from Ralph in his own words about his experience in San Antonio;

“My event required contestants to take a written test from ASE covering all the areas of certification. The results were factored into the final score.

The Hands-on test had 6 stations. 

  1. Batteries, starting and charging systems- We had to check voltage drop across the circuit, along with checking why the mock up would not start.
  2. Wheel bearings and Hubs- Competitors had to properly install and set a wheel bearing by the book! Don't remember the last time I did one by the book!
  3. *Cooling system and antifreeze- We had to check 3 samples out of 6 and report the condition of the coolant with test strips, refractometer, and visual inspection.
  4. *Electrical systems- Required to test mock ups of a truck with a multi-meter for resistance, flawed circuit, and make the lights work.
  5. Thomas electrical- We had to check a mock up of a J1939 connector with a ECM and TCM.
  6. Tires- We had to inspect 5 defective tires and determine why they failed

* I had high score on these 2 events


The competitors had a day of classes and written testing. The hands-on competition was the second day. On one of the evenings we all went to the "River Walk" for dinner at the Salt Grass Steak House. Everyone went Go-cart racing afterwards. (Go-cart racing is a tradition for the America’s Best event and every bit as competitive as the bus inspection/diagnostic event)

The group toured the Alamo while waiting for our turn for the Hands on test. The classes there were some of the best outside of tech school I have ever had. Lots of networking with venders and other garage personnel around the country!

This was a great experience! I am proud to have be a part of and been able to represent NC and Wake County to the rest of the USA!”

-Ralph Trango

Danny Reed from Beaufort County and current NC champion bus inspector went to San Antonio with high hopes of becoming the first two-time national inspection winner. Unfortunately his expectations were denied due to the intense level of competition that showed up from other states. Danny has previously won the NC contest three times and the national title in 2007.

"Danny had tough competition waiting there for the inspection, and everyone had him as a favorite to win.”
–observation from Ralph Trango

Danny’s own words… “The trip was as always a great experience. I learned a few new things to improve my work. A new hand’s on class was introduced this year with excellent instructruction. A class was offered which gives you a view of an accident investigation through an inspector’s eye. Working as groups we were given the news report, police accident reports, driver pre-trip reports and maintenance reports. A bus with defects pertaining to the accident was set up. The goal was to find what factors contributed to the accident in highest to the lowest order. A very good exercise in my opinion.

Another great thing about this event is meeting new people along with seeing some prior competition friends.

As for the local area it was great. The weather was excellent, and we had great hosts from the Texas Association of School Bus Transportation. The bus garage we worked in was an auto dealership remodeled to their requirements of operation. We saw the Alamo which stands as a memorial to the fallen brave fighting for independence of Texas. We visited the famous river walk of San Antonio. This is a river that is below street level with wide sidewalks on each side. The restaurants, stores, and hotels line up on each side. Each restaurant has tables right up to the river edge for you to enjoy while dining.”

-Danny Reed

The America’s Best competitors and guests pose for the annual photo

The competition and training workshop is limited to one inspector and one technician per state. All prospective technician participants must be currently employed in a position requiring regular maintenance and/or repair of school buses. All prospective inspector participants must be currently employed in a position requiring regular inspection of school buses.

Final results
• First Place: Alan Fidler of Indiana
• Second Place: Ralph Trango of North Carolina
• Third Place: Chris Hodges of Utah

• First Place: Jack Defibaugh of West Virginia
• Second Place: Jeff Pihl of Colorado
• Third Place: Scott Bettinger ofTexas

The competition is co-sponsored by Hydrotex, Bus Parts Warehouse, Zonar Systems and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.

Delco Remy awarded $5000.00 in travel scholarships for 2011.

Bus Parts Warehouse and Zonar offered scholarships that enable each winner to attend the Annual NAPT Summit. This year's Summit takes place from Oct. 22 to 27 in Cincinnati.

For more information or to register for the America's Best competition, visit Questions can be directed to Marshall Casey at

Next year’s “America’s Best” competition will be held in Rocky Mount, N.C.. Cummins Inc. will be hosting.










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