December 16, 2015 9:30 AM, EST

Travis Graham Named Champion at Tech Skills Rodeo

SAN ANTONIO — Travis Graham, a 24-year-old technician who works at Rush Truck Center in Orlando, Florida, was named All-Around Champion and heavy-duty division Grand Champion at the company’s “Tech Skills Rodeo” here.

A total of 163 technicians competed in 22 categories, including engines, parts and body repair at Rush’s 10th annual event. Some went home with wallets bulging with cash, and others returned to their Rush service centers with prizes ranging from tools to gift cards.

Everyone went home a winner in one way or another, said Mike Besson, Rush’s managing vice president of service operations.

Graham took home a giant trophy and $21,900 in cash and prizes.

“I’ve been working on cars or trucks full time since I was 16,” Graham told Transport Topics after the awards ceremony. “Luckily, the tests were the same stuff we see out in the field, so they weren’t too challenging.”

Chairman and CEO W.M. “Rusty” Rush, who doled out the awards at a Dec. 15 banquet, said the event was a company highlight of the year. Rush called the technicians the “heartbeat of our service centers.”

Beeson said the competition has become both a recruitment and retention tool for Rush. The company employs more than 2,400 techs but could immediately employ an additional 300 were it not for a continuing shortage of qualified mechanics, Besson said.

“Guys that come here don’t ever leave the same,” Besson told TT. “When they go back, they go, ‘Man, you wouldn’t believe what we did.’ ”