About the only thing that was the same at this year's TMCSuperTech competition was the winner.
In just its fourth year, the Technology and Maintenance Council's (TMC) SuperTech National Technician Skills Competition is truly getting bigger and better, with more contestants, more volunteers, more skill stations and more sponsors. This September, 121 technicians, 227 volunteer judges and more than 900 attendees descended on Nashville to spend several days immersed in all that is modern heavy-truck maintenance. And while there was plenty of hard work to go around, it was all smiles and celebrations at the end for another job well done.
The competition kicked off with the written skills and preliminary testing, which narrowed the field to the 96 who would go on to the 14-station Hands-on Skills Challenge--the highlight of TMC's annual fall meeting, which covers a wide variety of industry topics at task force and study group meetings, forums and panel discussions.
TMC, a technical council of American Trucking Associations, started the competition in 2005 to recognize truck technicians and promote career opportunities, and so far it has been a resounding success for all involved. TMC executive director Carl Kirk says given the rapid pace of technological change, being a heavy truck technician is one of the most challenging skilled jobs there is.
"The knowledge base that these folks have to master is truly amazing," he says. "It's entirely appropriate that TMC honors the crème de la crème of our industry."
Once again, that crème de la crème had a distinctive southern flavor, as David Bryan Lewis of Amelia Court House, VA, kept a vice grip on the SuperTech Grand Champion crown for the second straight year. For his efforts, Lewis, 45, took home quite a bounty, including a NEXIQ Technologies' Snap-On Elite Series tool chest valued at around $10,000, a Panasonic Toughbook 19 laptop loaded with Noregon Systems' JPRO Fleet Service Kit and an all-expense trip for two to the Daytona 500.
An ASE Master Fleet Technician in Heavy Truck and Advanced Electronic Diagnostics with Wal-Mart Transportation's Sutherland, VA facility, Lewis joined the company in 1992 after spending more than a decade as a full-time technician with the Virginia National Guard, where he followed in the footsteps of his father. Back home, Lewis' father got him interested in the business by showing him the ropes at a tender age.
"At six, seven years old, I helped him hold the drop light and do various tasks, and you just go from there," he says.
While in the Guard, Lewis worked on "everything diesel from bumper to rear," and credits their older technicians for passing along their knowledge and passion.
"They were my mentors; they took me under their wing and showed me proper procedures to fix, repair and troubleshoot," he says. "I owe them a great deal of thanks for pulling me in the right direction. I learned that individuals do not win--it's being part of a team--understanding a timeline and attention to detail."
Lewis' area manager Dominick Yates credits Lewis' success to his strong work ethic.
"He takes every job seriously, even the small ones," he says. "He pays attention to detail and takes his time to diagnose every aspect of the problem. He listens to driver feedback and in doing so gets going in the right direction to complete necessary repairs, without lost time troubleshooting."
The best way to prepare for the SuperTech competition is to treat each problem with care and common sense, Lewis says.
"Study it in depth and in detail as much as you can, apply the industry standards--get a mental picture of how everything's supposed to operate--and then you can troubleshoot it correctly," he says. "And then practice and practice and practice."
Of course, having some experience in the competition helps.
"You know what to expect as far as the length of the day, how to maintain your nerves," he says. "You try to keep calm and learn to tell yourself, 'I can do this, it's just like every day at the shop; you're just under the time clock a bit.'"
Three days of amazing training opportunities--are your techs signed up?