"The hardest part for me was understanding what were the skill sets that you, as an industry, wanted the technicians to demonstrate to you in this competition, and how we could make them as generic as possible, so they weren't manufacturer-specific, so there wasn't any unfair advantage to one person or the other," Arrants explains. "Being an automotive person, I didn't understand a lot about the diesel industry, and it still is a fairly high learning curve for me. Some of the stuff related fairly easily—HVAC, electrical—but certain areas were completely different."
The 67 contestants, many of whom were corporate, state and regional technician skills winners, started out with a written test. Contestants with the top 50 scores moved on the following day to the hands-on test, consisting of eight skill stations that tested competitors on: Electronic Troubleshooting; Brakes; HVAC; Engine; Steering/Suspension; Preventive Maintenance Inspection; Drivetrain; and Service Information.
"I was nervous all day long," Talmadge recalls. "I would settle down a little bit, but then when the next station rolled around I would get nervous again."
Like the other competitors, Talmadge was often tested on equipment he had never worked on, but like a true champion, he didn't let that that hold him back. "I work for a Volvo dealership, and we don't do Detroit Diesel warranty anymore, so I had never seen a DDEC V engine," he says. Despite that handicap, Talmadge correctly diagnosed the DDEC engine to win the Engine Skill Station.
Talmadge overcame more difficulties—with unfamiliar software, inexperience diagnosing transmissions, and a slack adjuster that he installed on the wrong side of the axle and had to reinstall—to win the top prize, a trip to the Daytona 500 and a massive Snap-on Tool box. And he's ready to come back again next September, when TMC's SuperTech2006 will be held in Austin, TX.
A ROUND OF APPLAUSE
"We believe that the first TMC SuperTech was an unqualified success," says TMC's Braswell. "I knew it was going to be well received and well executed; what did surprise me was the growth in the interest, and the volunteerism, from people that were outside our traditional base, folks that did not necessarily come to TMC meetings. That was a pleasant surprise; it's something to build on for the future."
George Arrants will be back next fall, for sure, with this message to every technician who wishes to compete: "The competition is designed to help you and other people understand the value that you bring, not only to your company, to the industry, but to our country as providing a service, not only of repair, but of safety, for the people that drive these trucks up and down the road."
Do your technicians have what it takes to compete nationally?
The Natural Gas Vehicle Institute sponsored and managed the CNG workstation, testing competency on CNG systems, at the Technology & Maintenance Council's (TMC) annual SuperTech skills competition.