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Ken-Ton Mechanic Corrals the Competition at Statewide “Roadeo” | Schools

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Ken-Ton Mechanic Corrals the Competition at Statewide “Roadeo”

Being the father of six children is just one reason why Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District Mechanic Mike Kleman places a high value on maintaining a fleet of safe buses: he understands how precious the cargo is that comes on and off those buses on a daily basis.  In his eight years with the District Kleman has come to know every part, plug, bolt, nook, and cranny in the fleet of 125 buses. 

That intricate knowledge has come in handy over the past five years as Kleman has won first place in the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) “Roadeo” competition for bus mechanics in 2006 and 2009, and most recently finished in second place in the 2010 NYAPT competition at Saratoga Springs, New York.  Think of it as a high-pressure “Olympics” style competition for bus mechanics, where they have to quickly assess potential mechanical problems then fix them right away.

“I’m a father first and mechanic second, and I deeply respect the importance of maintaining safe buses to transport children to and from school everyday.  Our job is to keep kids safe.  In order to do that we have to troubleshoot every single inch of a bus, especially brakes and lights,” said Kleman, who will now advance to compete in a national “Roadeo” hosted by the National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) in Jasper, Indiana from September 28th to October 1st.

During the NYAPT “Roadeo” bus mechanics from all over New York State are tested in five competitive categories that judge their mechanical skills, how quickly they can assess problems, and how efficiently they can fix them.

Competitors are first given 60-minutes to complete an intensive written exam with 80 questions.  That is followed by a computer diagnostics competition where mechanics have 12-muntes to use computer technology to probe bus problems then fix them. 

Mechanics then have to pinpoint defects, safety issues, and problems with the exterior, interior, and undercarriage of a bus, with each competitor being given 12-minutes at each station.  The fifth and final component of the competition involves the laying out of multiple bus parts, large and small, with participants having to identify them and what their function is on a bus. 

“You have to be able to think fast and work well under pressure.  That’s the part of the job I love: you’re always learning something new everyday, and everyday is different,” added Kleman.

The nine mechanics in the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District have a massive responsibility in maintaining a healthy fleet of buses to transport more than 6,000 students from within District.  Those buses travel almost 1.1 million miles per year, many times in difficult driving conditions because of our often unpredictable Western New York winters.

“Our mechanics, bus drivers, and attendants do a great job and work very hard throughout the year ensuring our children arrive to school and head home safely and promptly,” said Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro.

“On behalf of the entire Board of Education I congratulate Mike Kleman for showing the entire state what we already know: he’s one of the best bus mechanics in all of New York.  We wish him the best of luck in the national competition in the fall,” said Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda Union Free School District Board of Education President Bob Dana.


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