"Improvement in technician excellence benefits all; including the technician, truck drivers and other on the road traveling along side the truck," she says. "There is no better way to enhance training and technician excellence than to have technicians compete in the SuperTech competition."
Industry sponsors like Swift Transportation provided an enormous amount of equipment, tools and awards that are necessary to pull off such a large event: Freightliner and seven fleets donated the use of 36 Class-8 tractors and six converter dollies for the competition, NEXIQ Technologies' provided one of its Snap-on tool chests for the grand champion, Panasonic provided Toughbook 19 laptops valued at approximately $4,000 to the grand champion and each of the skills station winners. Noregon Systems provided its new JPRO Fleet Service Kits loaded on each of the Toughbooks. Each of the 96 finalists received an Apple iPod Touch, tools and other items, thanks to PTDC's Friend of the Technician sponsors.
First, second and third-place winners in the Safety & Environmental Skill Station received safety compliance kit from the Coordinating Committee for Automotive Repair. Cengage Learning-Delmar & Chilton, which sponsored the Repair Order Generation Skill Station, provided the winner with a $1,000 AMEX card. The top three competitors in the Engine Skill Station received a Nexiq Diagnostic Link from Snap-On. The top winner of the Tire and Wheel Skill Station received a $1,000 gift certificate from Chicago Pneumatic.
"Working together is what makes the competition such a success," says TMC exhibit and sponsorship manager Joe Hite.
Next year's TMCSuperTech competition is set for Sept. 14-17 at the Raleigh Convention Center, Raleigh, NC, and preparations and possible changes are already underway. Arrants says committee members are talking about extending the competition to two days, which would take some re-shuffling.
"We'd have to operate certain workstations on one day and then others on the second day, because if we don't, some techs will have an unfair advantage over others," he says.
One idea is to add mandatory training sessions for technicians.
"I have to be able to do something with them while the other ones are running through the workstations, so that certain techs would be going through workstations and others would be going through training," he says. "Instead of going for 25 minutes of training, they may sit there for an hour--two rotations--in this type of training, maybe do a workstation and then do another type of training. What it does is guarantee all technicians are exposed to the same training, and for the fleet managers, they know that those techs are going to get that training."
Perhaps the biggest change will be the likely addition of more contestants to the hands-on portion of the competition; possibly up to 114, which Arrants says would also create a need for additional skills stations.
"We review our workstations when we're done and look at the overall scoring, and Chuck Roberts with ASE provides input to the group on the bell curve and how the workstation actually performed, based on the scores, to determine if it was a little too easy or too hard, or if we have to make some modifications," he says.
It is never too early to start gearing up for next year for hopeful competitors, either, and while some fleets are more proactive than others at helping their technicians' preparation, Long says it is ultimately up to the competitors to be ready to answer the bell.
"The technician has to make sure he's taking matters into his own hands by keeping himself up-to-date, by reading trade magazines, technical literature, bulletins, service manuals, that type of thing," Long says. "We have the RP manuals there in place at the workstations, and we also have the literature there that outlines what he needs to do in order to do the process properly. Sometimes the tech will get in such a hurry that he thinks he knows the procedure and he leaves out a step along the way. Then he gets to the end and finds out he has an extra part, and (says) 'Wait a minute--where does this go?' And you have to tear everything down and redo it."