The Problem With Technician Competitions

In the course of updating our State Maintenance Council directory (available in our July issue, and online at, my Assistant Editor, Scott DeLaruelle, heard some comments that aroused some concern. Scott was calling State Trucking Associations to find out if they had their own State Maintenance Council, then if they did he was calling the Maintenance Council contact to get an update on the Council's officers and contact information, and to ask if they ran a State Technician Competition for their members. Thirty-six states have Maintenance Councils, 14 don't. Of the 36 that have Maintenance Councils, seven run competitions, and 29 don't. Out of those 29 states that don't run technician competitions, a handful have very disturbing reasons for why they don't. One State Maintenance Council officer told Scott that he couldn't get fleets in his state to support a technician competition because of their fears of technician theft--too many smaller fleets were worried that if they sent their top technicians to compete, those techs would be recruited away by bigger fleets at the competition. Two other State Maintenance Council officers said that they can't get support for a technician competition because of the cockiness factor--their member fleets worry that if a technician wins a state trophy, he or she will come back to the shop demanding more pay. I have two reactions to this. First, are these really legitimate fears, or are they just excuses for not getting involved? Second, if they are true, so what? Why are these fleets unwilling to reward their technicians for their accomplishments? If a technician is good enough to go to a state competition and win, isn't he worth paying more to hang on to? Why not tie a competition into a pay incentive for your best technicians? Imagine what kind of loyalty that would create, and imagine how envious those bigger fleets would be, knowing that they can't steal a technician who is so happy in his current job... And then there's this: if your technicians win at a state competition, wouldn't other technicians want to come work for you, because they're so impressed with your training and incentive program? It just seems to me that those fleet maintenance managers in those states are looking at things in absolutely the wrong way. And they probably don't need the help of a state competition to lose their best employees.