Secret of Success

If you want to take the road of champions to TMCSuperTech2007, be sure to bring a lot of reading material. That's the learned opinion of the 2006 Grand Champion of TMC's National Technician Skills Competition, Tyson W. Sontag.

Sontag, a technician with McKee Foods Transportation, earned the top overall score from 10 skill stations to become trucking's top tech during the TMCSuperTech event, held in Austin, Texas in September 2006.

Read To Win

Mr. Sontag said preparation for TMCSuperTech2006 included a lot of reading. "I read a lot of RPs (TMC Recommended Practices), a lot of OEM manuals looking for spec's, and anything else that I could that had facts, figures and procedures," he said.

The 35-year-old didn't gain all his knowledge from manuals and training, however. "I'm a third-generation truck mechanic," he said. "A lot of what I learned from my dad was the importance of doing things right, admitting your mistakes and learning from them. Also, making sure you're giving your boss an honest day's work for an honest day's pay."

A self-described nerd, Sontag says he enjoys reading biographies and other nonfiction, political commentaries - and technical manuals. He spends much of his free time in family-related church activities with his wife, Nicola, and three children: David, 15, Reagan 4, and MacKenzie, 18 months.

Sontag has some advice for his fellow competitors: "Never give up because there's always next year. Read and study every piece of information you can get your hands on—you never know when you'll need it."

Prize Package

In addition to the TMCSuperTech2006 trophy, Sontag received an all-expense-paid trip for two to the Daytona 500, a tool chest given by Snap-On valued at $10,000, a $3,000 gift certificate for tools from Mitchell 1, and a NEXIQ Technologies USB-Link vehicle interface adapter. Second- and third-place finishers each received a NEXIQ Technologies USB-Link.

TMCSuperTech2006 was organized by the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC)—a technical Council of American Trucking Associations—to showcase the skill and knowledge of trucking industry technicians, and increase the visibility of career opportunities available for truck technicians. Industry experts report that 20,000-25,000 new truck technicians will be needed each year for the next 10 years.

Group Effort

"TMCSuperTech is truly an industry event," said Robert Braswell, TMC's technical director. "An amazing amount of time was spent planning and coordinating this event — time that was donated by fleets, OEMs, suppliers and other industry partners."

Operating the event and its 10 skill stations required the coordination of the dozen PTDC committee members with approximately 90 judges and station captains. Specialized tools and vehicles—including 24 Class 8 tractors—for the skills stations were provided by manufacturers and fleets, much of it through Friends of the Technician sponsors.

Friends of the Technician sponsorships include three levels—Platinum, Gold and Silver—that reflect annual sponsorship levels by companies, organizations or individuals at the $20,000, $10,000 and $5,000. Platinum level sponsors include Fleet Maintenance Magazine/Cygnus Business Media, WheelTime Network, and WyoTech technical college. Gold level sponsors include ArvinMeritor, Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems & Bendix Spicer Foundation Brake, Cummins, Inc., FedEx Express, FedEx Freight & FedEx Ground, Haldex Commercial Vehicle Systems, Hendrickson International, Roadranger—Eaton and Dana, and Snap-On. Silver level sponsors include: Mack Trucks, Inc., United States Postal Service NCED, and Wal-Mart Transportation.

Skills station sponsors for TMCSuper-Tech2006 include: Brakes—Arvin Meritor, Brake Tech Tools—Bendix and Haldex; Drivetrain—Arvin Meritor; and Electrical—Truck-Lite. The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is sponsored the written test and scoring of the national skills competition.

In-kind sponsors for TMCSuperTech-2006 include: Drivetrain—Roadranger (Eaton and Dana); Engines—FedEx, Volvo, Maverick Transportation, WyoTech, Cummins and Cummins Rocky Mountain; HVAC—Rush Enterprises, Rush Truck Centers and St. Louis Community College; Preventive Maintenance Inspection—FedEx Express; Steering/Suspension—International Truck and Engine and Longhorn International Trucks, Ltd.; Tire & Wheel—Bandag, Inc., Hunter Engineering, Holt Caterpillar, Imperial Products, Matco Tools, Michelin, Myers Tire Supply and UPS; and Wheel End—Consolidated Metco, Dana, SKF, Stemco and Timken.