Even as the 2023 UMA Maintenance Competition grand champion — his third win in five years — Darren Haines is always ready to learn something new.
That’s what brings him back to the UMA Motorcoach EXPO every year to take part in the UMA Maintenance Interchange and the competition.
“I’ve been doing this for 30 years, but of course, I don’t know it all. When you’re in a room where there are a thousand years of experience, you’ve got somebody that’s got 300 coaches compared to us, where we’ve only got six. They’ve had a lot more experience on that particular coach than I’ve had,” said Haines, who owns Jag Motorcoach in Gladwin, Michigan, with his wife, Mechelle.
“So here’s how you do it: I learned the quicker way to do it and just all around how to work quicker and be more efficient. I’m learning from the best people that know what they’re doing,” Haines said of the Maintenance Interchange.
As the main sponsor of the UMA Maintenance Competition, ABC Companies supplies the impressive trophies and cash prizes of $4,000, which have increased five-fold since the competition began nearly 20 years ago.
This year’s first runner-up was Juan Velasquez, of Windstar Lines in Carroll, Iowa; and the second runner-up was Dave Meyerhofer, with Kobussen Trailways in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Like Haines, Meyerhofer has won the competition three times.
‘Really tough’ competition
Haines admits he was a little surprised he won first place this year because the written test was “really tough” this year.
“I think it’s the toughest one I’ve ever had. I didn’t think I did very well on that. But on the part where you find any defects on the bus, I did pretty good,” said Haines.
Mechelle Haines points out that Darren, who owns MCI coaches, was tested on Van Hool and Temsa coaches.
Along with attending the daylong Maintenance Interchange at EXPO, the competition is another way Haines says he learns new things about maintaining and repairing coaches.
“The guys that put the bugs in the buses to find are always doing different things to help us learn more so our buses are safer as they go down the road,” he said.