10/15/07 — Truck mechanic takes home top diagnostic award

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Truck mechanic takes home top diagnostic award

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on October 15, 2007 1:45 PM

Mechanic James Frain can now officially say he is among the best in the world at finding out what's wrong with garbage trucks.

Frain won first place in international competition in the recent 2007 International Road-E-O held by Solid Waste Association of North America in Cape May County, N.J.

The eight finalists from all over the U.S. and Canada looked for flaws on two trucks and a piece of landfill equipment. Only three came away with trophies, and Frain got two of them -- one for best truck mechanic and the other for best overall mechanic.

"There were only two landfill mechanics. Most were truck mechanics," Frain said.

In New Jersey, he found the most defects on the two trucks. Looking for defects is something he does every day at the Waste Industries garage on Westbrook Road.

Three years ago, he won third place in state. Waste Industries won first, second and third place that year. And last year, one of the Waste Industries drivers from Goldsboro won first place in the state competition.

In the mechanic category, you have 10 minutes to find 10 defects, Frain said.

"You're pumped up because you have only 10 minutes to find all those defects, and you wonder where did they hide them," he said.

The defect could be a loose lug nut, a cap missing off the radiator, a missing oil dipstick, a flat tire. Contestants have to look over the whole truck.

In 2005, Frain found all 10 in three minutes 27 seconds -- but that wasn't enough to bring home the title.

"Those who beat me took eight and nine minutes, but they did better on the written test," he said.

This year, at the international competition, Frain found defects like a bent windshield wiper arm, "little stuff like that. You have to know all the safety stuff."

For example, one of the two trucks in this year's competition had a fire extinguisher missing.

The trucks were clean, and that made it harder, Frain said.

"If you get a clean truck, you're not used to a clean truck. If a truck is dirty, you can find defects easier. If something is rusted, the dirt will be rusty. It sets it off that much more. Usually when you have a rust trail, it means one of your lug nuts is loose."

Frain stayed two days in a waterfront hotel in Avalon, N.J., during the weekend of the competition.

International competition is more formal than state competition, he said. At the state level, organizers had it geared for the family.

"They always have something for the kids. At state, they have a contest for the kids. They draw, and the design that wins goes on the next year's T-shirts."

It was fun getting away from the routine, said Frain, who has been doing mechanic work since he was old enough to pick up a wrench and haul it to his dad.