Each year, UMA Motorcoach EXPO spotlights the best of the best when it comes to mechanics and drivers with two of the most challenging competitions in the industry: UMA Motorcoach Maintenance Competition and the UMA International Driver Competition.
The 2022 grand champions were familiar names.
Dave Meyerhofer, of Kobussen Trailway in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, won the maintenance competition, making him a three-time winner. Jonathan Harris, of Travel Kuz in Gill, Massachusetts, won second, and Jon Thomas, of ALL Aboard America in Mesa, Arizona, took third place.
In a short acceptance speech, Meyerhofer credited the time spent at the annual UMA Maintenance Interchange – which is part of EXPO – for increasing his understanding of the ever-evolving motorcoaches.
“There are a thousand years of experience between all those who attend, so the knowledge that’s in that room is just remarkable,” Meyerhofer said.
Drivers also put to test
Anthony Griffith, of A.W. Griffith Transportation Consulting in Glen Oaks, New York, won the 2022 International Driver Competition. Griffith was among UMA’s first class of Master Drivers in 2017.
Bruce Kilmer, of Premier Coaches Northwest in Federal Way, Washington, won second, and Brendan McCullough, of McCullough Coach Lines in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, came in third.
In his acceptance speech, Griffith thanked the industry for recognizing the important role that drivers play.
Francois Tremblay, President of Prevost & Volvo coaches North America, shared the same sentiment before handing out the awards. He observed that professional motorcoach drivers are not only responsible for protecting a company’s key asset but are the face of the brand with customers.
“Coming out of this crisis, the driver shortage has become an even greater industry challenge,” Tremblay said before presenting the awards. “It’s become even more important that we attract new drivers to the industry, but also that we retain the ones that are doing such an amazing job for us.
“That’s why Prevost feels responsible to contribute and ensure we’re doing our part to support this industry on this matter. And making sure that our coaches make their life easier and are giving them the proper comfort is important, because at the end of the day without these great industry ambassadors, none of us would be here.”
Prevost is the title sponsor of the drivers competition, underwriting the awards and cash prizes.
Maintenance winners are ‘serious professionals’
The longtime title sponsor of the maintenance competition is ABC Companies, which provides $4000 in prize money as well as custom made trophies. In order to even the playing field for the competitors, ABC rotates one of the vehicles out each year to include a different OEM. MCI provided the second vehicle this year, partnering with the Giddens family of Pacific Coachways in Garden Grove, California.
Tim Nash, a technical solutions regional manager from MCI was given the task to create 8 defects on the MCI. Jeff Gaertner, ABC regional product support manager with the Customer Care Group, was in charge of “riggin the defects” on the Van Hool coach.
“There were 16 total defects between the two coaches, with 10 of 16 identified by three competitors,” said Kevin Whitworth, who organizes both the Maintenance Completion and Interchange. “Considering the difficulty and short time limit involved, these competitors amaze us with their skills.”
The hands-on inspection is just half of the competition. Each competitor is required to take a written exam the day prior. Louis Hotard, from Hotard Coaches in New Orleans, Louisiana prepares the written exam each year. Just like the hands on, the written exam is equally as difficult. Only one way to describe our three winners, “serious professionals,” Whitworth said.
“We all know that this is a job that not only is difficult, but it’s getting more and more challenging. There’s more complexity to it,” said Thom Peebles, ABC Companies’ Vice President, Marketing. “We’ve added more technology to it so they’re constantly learning. … It really is an honor to recognize these people and what they do.”
Loretta Bitner, chief of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s commercial passenger carrier safety division, who took the stage for the awards ceremony, thanked drivers for their essential role in transportation.
“Everyone who drives is a winner when they get their passengers from point A to point B safely,” she said. “That’s a challenge that each of you takes on every day, and you do the job, and you do it well. You are professionals, and you deserve recognition.”