Scott Sweeney, a Carthage Central School District bus mechanic, is the best mechanic in New York.
At least he is this year.
The Castorland native won the state Tech-Mech Roadeo in 2011. Now Sweeney will compete for the national title at the America’s Best School Bus Technicians and Inspectors competition in Rocky Mount, N.C. Although he has competed on the state level four or five times and has finished in second and third place, he never guessed he would get first place last year. He said the competition has been more difficult in the past few years and that mechanics are very competitive at the state level.
“When they called out the third- and second-place winners, I was nervous because I didn’t think I had gotten first,” he said.
Sweeney has been a bus mechanic for 15 years and has served the Indian River Central School District and Freeman Bus Corp. for the Watertown City Schools. He gets all the practice he needs for the local and state competition at work, where each bus has to be inspected for defects twice a year. “The more experience you get, the more it helps you,” he said.
The state competitions are modeled after state bus inspections. The competitors have to find 10 defects inside, 10 outside and 10 under “dummied up” buses, Sweeney explained. Everything from exhaust leaks to peeling floors, broken lights, engine oil leaks and broken springs has to be checked on and marked off in 10 minutes. Competitors are also required to take a written test. Ties are often broken based on speed — those who spot defects the quickest are given the upper hand.
Sweeney recently received a few tips from a South Jefferson Central District mechanic who went to the national competition last year. “I know he said it was quite a bit more difficult than the state level,” Sweeney said. “It’s more hands on, from what I’m told.”
A member of the Carthage School-Related Personnel Union, Sweeney has received sponsorships and support from his NYSUT local, as well as New York Bus Sales, the transportation office staff and the Head Mechanics Association. “The school district is also working with me and assisting me financially,” he added.
Sweeney said he does not know what to expect other than the series of seminars to attend and three days packed with competitions. He admitted he was nervous.
“Hopefully after the first day, you get rid of some of the nervousness so you can think clearly at the stations,” he said.
Update: Sweeney finished fourth in the national competition.
(Submitted by Kelly Scott, CSRP local newsletter editor)