Some 900 people gathered in the Texas Ballroom of the Grand Hyatt hotel in San Antonio for the Annual Rush Enterprises Tech Skills Rodeo jumped up from their seats and gave a long ovation when the name of Rebecca Chewning was announced. A little later, when the hosts told her name a second time, the standing ovation was even longer and louder.

Not only did Chewning make history as the first female finalist at the rodeo, in the Hino Parts Division, but she is also the first woman to become Grand Champion since the mega-dealer’s technician competition was launched in 2006. She was representing Rush Truck Center Dallas Medium Duty.

Justin Euler, of Rush Truck Centers of St. Peters, Missouri, won for the second time the title of All-Around Rodeo Champion. He walked away with $16,000 in cash and prizes.

“I was not expecting that at all. It’s a little overwhelming, honestly,” Chewning said in an interview, recovering from her emotions a few minutes after the end of the Dec. 17 awards gala.

Rebecca Chewning is the first female grand champion of Rush Truck Centers' annual technician...

Rebecca Chewning is the first female grand champion of Rush Truck Centers' annual technician competition.

Photo: Steve Bouchard

Chewning, 31, hopes that her performance at Rush’s Rodeo will “open more doors and give more options for females to be inspired to work in truck parts and service departments.”

Rebecca was at Penske’s service department for five years before joining Rush as Inside Parts Representative three years ago.

She would like to see more women embracing jobs like hers.

“We do not have a lot of females in the industry that are in parts,” she said. “I don’t know if they are just too intimidated to come do this, or think that they are not good enough.”

What does it take to be a seasoned parts expert? “Experience, knowledge, and asking questions,” Chewning said. “I never stop asking questions and learning every day to make sure I understand how to find what I am looking for, what something looks like.” She is thankful to her colleagues at Rush for their constant support.

She participated in the Rodeo for the first time last year but did not make it through the second day of testing. This year was different. “It’s my first year making it to the second day of testing, and here we are!” she said, referring to her title of Grand Champion.  

She did not prepare differently this year, just kept doing her job and trying to learn some new things through more training.

Two women took part in the Rodeo this year, and Chewning hopes to see more in the future. To those who have never participated, she advised, don’t be afraid. “Just take the qualifying test, talk to your managers, to your coworkers. Ask questions, and just try.”

Because she tried, and succeeded with flying colors, Rebecca took home $8,500 in cash and $5,400 in prizes.

Steve Bouchard is the editor of Quebec's leading French-language trucking magazine, Transport Routier. This article appears under a cooperative editorial sharing agreement between HDT and Transport Routier parent company Newcom Media, which also publishes Today's Trucking and other business-to-business titles.