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).
Skills station winners include: Electrical/Electronic, Eric Rusk, McKee Foods Transportation; Brakes, Steve Roen, Rush Truck Centers - Dallas; HVAC, Eric Rusk, McKee Foods Transportation; Engines, Steve Talmadge, Premier Truck Centers; Steering/Suspension, Tyson Sontag, McKee Foods Transportation; Preventive Maintenance Inspection, Troy Scott, Transco Lines, Inc.; Drivetrains, Tyson Sontag, McKee Foods Transportation; Service Information, Larry Kennedy, J.B. Hunt Transportation; Wheel Ends, Anthony Oliver Wilson, Saia Freightlines; and Tire & Wheel, Numa Iraeta, Bay City Diesel.
In addition to his sixth-place overall score, Mike Bogard, Ryder Systems, again this year earned the top score on the written test. Bogard placed third overall in the 2005 competition. Steve Talmadge, last year's grand champion, placed 13th in the skills competition.
Five state trucking associations sent 2006 state grand champions to TMCSuperTech2006. They include: Arkansas, Troy Scott; New York, Christopher Tate; Oregon, Ray Jacky; South Carolina, Jeff Williams; and Texas, Steven Roen.
TMCSuperTech2006 was organized by TMC, a technical Council of American Trucking Associations, to showcase the skill and knowledge of trucking industry technicians, and to 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.
In addition to the national skills competition, technicians and TMC members and registered guests of TMC's 2006 Fall Meeting could participate in the PTDC Technician Training Fair that was held Monday and Tuesday, Sept. 19-20. The training included many of the skills subjects tested in the TMCSuperTech2006 competition.
"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 TMCSuperTech2006 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 TMCSuperTech2006 include: Drivetrain - Roadranger - Eaton and Dana; Engines - FedEx, Volvo, Maverick Transportation, WyoTech, Cummins, and Cumins Rocky Mountain; HVAC - Rush Enterprises, Rush Truck Centers and St. Louis Community College; Preventive Maintenance Inspection - FedEx Express; Steering/Suspension - International Truck and Engine, 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.
Information on how to become a Friend of the Technician sponsor is available online at http://www.truckline.com/aboutata/councils/tmc/ptdcsponsorship, or by contacting David Miller, TMC exhibit services manager, at 703-838-1927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information about competing or sponsoring in TMCSuperTech2007, contact TMC at 703-838-1763.
TMC, a technical council of American Trucking Associations, is North America's premier technical society for truck equipment, information technology and logistics professionals. Find out more about TMC at http://tmc.truckline.com.
American Trucking Associations, the national trade association for the trucking industry, is a federation of affiliated state trucking associations, conferences and organizations that includes more than 37,000 motor carrier members representing every type and class of motor carrier in the country. ATA serves the interests of more than nine million people and 420,000 companies involved in trucking before Congress, the courts and regulatory agencies. http://truckline.com.