Skill Check

THE TIME HAS COME ONCE AGAIN for the biggest non-corporate heavy-duty vehicle technician competition in the land: SuperTech2008 is coming, and if you’re smart you’re already making plans to send your best technicians to Nashville, TN in September to compete.

SuperTech, in case you don’t know, is the national technician skills competition put on every year by the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC). This year’s event will be the fourth, and, judging by the success of the first three, this year’s competition will be extremely well-attended, and fiercely competitive.

For the past several years, I have been privileged to serve on TMC’s Professional Technician Development Committee (PTDC—the group of industry experts that developed and runs SuperTech—and I’ve seen the event go from success to success, attracting more and more competitors, more sponsors, and more volunteers with every go-’round.

There’s a reason more people keep signing up: SuperTech is a good idea, done well.

Back when SuperTech was in the planning stages, some of the folks on PTDC recognized that there were already some very well-run technician competitions out there. Not only do many fleets run their own in-house competitions, but many State Maintenance Councils do as well. In fact, PTDC looked to the Arkansas Maintenance & Technology Council’s skills competition for inspiration and guidance.

Of course it made sense to us on the committee back then that we should reach out to these state maintenance councils and corporations and invite them to send their winners to SuperTech—in fact, winners of State Maintenance Councils are granted a pass in the SuperTech qualifying round.

In the special SuperTech issue that we published last July, we counted six states—Arkansas, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, South Carolina and Tennessee—that had their own technician competitions either in the works or up and running. This year we know of at least one state—Indiana—that is planning a new technician championship, and there are doubtless more out there.

My advice to fleet maintenance managers in these states is to get your best technicians competing today, so that they have their best shot at getting into SuperTech. If you have a state competition, enter your top talent. If you don’t, talk to the people in charge of your state maintenance council about starting one up. If you don’t have a state maintenance council, talk to the people at your state trucking association about starting one. As our cover story in this issue demonstrates (page 6), state trucking associations will listen to these requests, but first somebody has to come forward and ask. Why not be the one to put this topic on the front burner?

Now, some of our readers may hesitate to act on this. They may ask, “What’s in it for me, the manager?” Well, the PTDC has read your mind, and has been working on inducements to get more managers to participate, and reap the benefits. After all, it’s one thing for a single technician on your staff to come back from SuperTech with a truck full of prizes and a head full of knowledge; how much better would it be for the fleet maintenance manager to come home from SuperTech with a dozen new ideas and tools to enhance the operations of the entire staff, and the entire shop?

Ultimately, that’s what SuperTech should be about: enhancing both the individual technician and the overall maintenance operation. That’s what SuperTech is becoming, but don’t take my word for it.

Go to our website ( for information on your State Maintenance Council, and go to the TMC’s website ( for information on SuperTech. I can honestly say you’ll be glad you did.