Tyson W. Sontag, Gentry, Ark., has earned his spot as the nation's best professional truck technician after being named Grand Champion of TMCSuperTech2006 on Sept. 20 during the Technology & Maintenance Council's (TMC) 2006 Fall Meeting. Sontag, a technician with McKee Foods Transportation, earned the top overall score from 10 skill stations to become trucking's top gun as well as winning the top score in the Steering/Suspension and the Drivetrains competition. TMCSuperTech is the trucking industry's national technician skills competition.
Sontag, a lead technician overseeing five other technicians, has been a heavy-truck technician with McKee Foods Transportation for six and a-half years at its Gentry, Ark., location. The private fleet also has maintenance facilities in Kingman, Ariz., Collegedale, Tenn., and Stuarts Draft, Va. He said one of the reasons he appreciates working for McKee is that the fleet is not afraid to spend money on training. "It's paid off for them not just in awards, but in the ability of their technicians to take care of their trucks," said Sontag. "When it comes to taking care of the Volvo-powered trucks we run, our abilities are on par with just about any (Volvo) dealer in the country."
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 says 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."
The competition, held in conjunction with TMC's 2006 Fall Meeting, Sept. 18-21 in Austin, Texas, was conducted by TMC's Professional Technician Development Committee (PTDC). The contest drew 82 contestants, many of whom were corporate, state and regional technician skills winners. Certified state trucking association grand champions and contestants with top scores from a written skills challenge were tested the following day at skill stations that included Electrical/Electronic, Brakes, HVAC, Engines, Steering/Suspension, Preventive Maintenance Inspection, Drivetrains. Service Information, Wheel Ends and Tire & Wheel test categories. Seventy-two technicians competed in the final round.
Runner-up, also from McKee Foods Transportation, was Bailey Johnson, Stuarts Draft, Va. Third-place winner was John Amdor III, Omaha, Nebr., with FedEx Express.
In addition to the TMCSuperTech2006 trophy, the first place winner received an all-expense-paid trip for two to the Daytona 500 in 2007, 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.
Other top-ten finishers include: fourth, Dave Flanagan, Wal-Mart Transportation; fifth, David Bryan Lewis, Wal-Mart Transportation; sixth, Michael Bogard, Ryder System, Inc.; seventh, Richard Chaffin, FedEx Freight (East); eighth, Christopher P. Tate, Mohawk Truck, Inc.; ninth, Troy Scott, Transco Lines, Inc.; and tenth, Chad Fetta, FedEx Freight (East).