The 2024 UMA Maintenance Competition brought two first-time winners. Juan Velasquez, of Windstar Lines in Carroll, Iowa, was named the Grand Champion. Last year, Velasquez was the first runner-up.
Dave Meyerhofer, of Kobussen Buses of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, a three-time Grand Champion, was first runner-up, and Jon Thomas, of All Aboard America! of Mesa, Arizona, was second runner-up.
Velasquez, the Regional Maintenance Director for Windstar Lines, says he’s grateful for the “unbelievably talented motorcoach technicians” he reconnects with at the EXPO’s Maintenance Interchange and Maintenance Competition.
“I always feel recharged when I’m hanging out and talking with great minds about stuff that we struggle with everyday,” Velasquez said. “The way we’re willing to help each other is remarkable. I learned and improved so much when I’m here, and it’s humbling to witness the competition and to now be among past champions.”
New to the competition this year was the Rising Star Award, It is underwritten by Stertil-Koni USA, the leading manufacturer of heavy-duty vehicle lifting systems. The competition is for motorcoach maintenance technicians with less than 24 months.
The inaugural award went to Todd Hoftiezer, with Personalized Coaches of Waldo, Wisconsin. Hoftiezer is new to the industry, but has worked years in a garage fixing trucks.
The competition takes place the day after the daylong Maintenance Interchange at EXPO.
As the main sponsor of the UMA Maintenance Competition, ABC Companies supplies the trophies and cash prizes of $4,000, which have increased five-fold since the competition began nearly 20 years ago.
Roman Cornell, CEO of ABC Companies, says the competition is close to his heart.
“Growing up in front of our bus garage, watching my grandfather and father, working on coaches themselves. I have a special spot in my heart for our technicians,” said Cornell, who presented the awards. “That’s why we have an ABC University program that focuses on the technical training that all of our customers can take advantage of.”
Grateful to mentors
In his acceptance speech, Velasquez thanked the Greteman family, owners of Windstar Lines, describing them as the “greatest people.”
“I’m grateful to Jeff, Scott and Pat for taking the chance on the young ambitious kid from California to learn and lead their maintenance department,” Velasquez said.
He credited his first mentor for teaching him how to be an assertive leader while having empathy and compassion for everyone.
“He had an unbelievable impact on my life,” Velasquez said, adding that he learned the importance of going to bat for his hardest-working team members.
Velasquez thanked his second mentor, Scott Greteman, for “taking me to the next level and helping me always understand the big picture.” He added that when things on the job get overwhelming, it’s Scott Greteman who reminds him “to breathe, calm down. We will get through it as we always do, and we always do.”
He also thanked his wife and children for their patience with his demanding work schedule and the traveling required to visit other Windstar shops to train technicians or diagnose vehicles.
“This industry isn’t easy. It’s a grind, and the hours can be long and all over the place,” Velasquez said, adding that working for a caring company makes all the difference. “I always say this isn’t for everybody and only the strong survive here. So if you’ve been here, congratulations, you’re strong.”