More than 90 apprentice and skilled technicians in 32 teams are competing in mechanical, electrical and bodywork tasks, including tracing faults, performing inspections, completing written examinations. As usual, the event is held at S&B Automotive Academy in Bristol.
Engineering manager of Reading Buses Phil Herlingshaw, who attended the event to support a team in the event, described engineers as 'hidden heroes'. He said that the event enables contestants to get out of the workplace and share best practice with others in the industry; the competition also highlights areas of technical weakness for further training, he added.
Such is the demand this year that the event has expanded into a fifth day. New this year is a master technician challenge only open to past winners of the mechanical or electrical challenge. This event consists of eight tests, using the same set-ups from sponsors, but with different, harder questions and/or reduced time intervals to complete them. Seven entrants have registered for the master tech challenge.
Although some contestants that missed out on the top award returned for another try, there were new faces as well. On Wednesday 6 June, techncians contesting the mechanical challenge were evenly split three-three, male and female, which was a competition first (there are five women competing in this year's Challenge).
Also, there were two teams entered from outside the UK, both from Singapore: Tower Transit Singapore, who competed last year, and SBS Transit.
Other new award categories in 2018 were outstanding apprentice team -- matching a similar award for skilled technicians -- and top-scoring electric driveline technician, based only on the results of the BAE Systems hybrid electric bus.
Sponsors in 2018 include Allison Transmissions, ADL, BAE Systems, Bridgestone, Groeneveld, Knorr-Bremse, MAN, Shell and Teng Tools. In addition, DVSA is also supporting the event with a bus inspection challenge, as in past years.