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September 18, 2018 11:30 PM, EDT

FedEx Freight’s Phillip Pinter Captures TMC SuperTech Grand Champion Honors

2018 TMC SuperTech Grand Champion Phil Pinter of FedEx Freight 2018 TMC SuperTech Grand Champion Phillip Pinter of FedEx Freight by Jaclyn O'Laughlin

ORLANDO, Fla. — FedEx Freight technician Phillip Pinter earned the title of 2018 TMC SuperTech Grand Champion during the fall meeting here of American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council.

“I was definitely not expecting it,” said Pinter, of Ida, Mich. “Completely out of the blue for me,” he told Transport Topics after the awards banquet the evening of Sept. 18. “The competition was really tough this year.”

Pinter defeated 95 other finalists in the TMC SuperTech heavy-duty division to win the Grand Championship.

Ferris State University’s Ian Partak won the TMC FutureTech National Student Technician Competition.

2018 TMC FutureTech Champion Ian Partak of Ferris State University

2018 TMC FutureTech Champion Ian Partak of Ferris State University by Jaclyn O'Laughlin

“I took second last year so this is almost like a dream,” said Partak, a senior at the Big Rapids, Mich.-based university. “I got my chance and took it, and I couldn’t be happier.”

The National Technician Skills Competitions took place again this year at the Orlando World Center Marriott. The competitions put participants through qualifying written exams and a gauntlet of hands-on skills challenges.

Pinter had placed 10th in last year’s competition but has only been working as a truck technician for about three years, having transitioned from automotive. “I haven’t looked back since I made the switch. It’s much nicer over here,” he said. “Everything in automotive was so fast-paced.”

He added that being at a large fleet is “much better for family life, for me.”

In automotive, “Everybody is like, ‘I want my car fixed now,’ ” Pinter said. Often, the repair quality can suffer as a result, Pinter said.

Fleet maintenance is more focused on “getting it fixed right the first time,” Pinter said.

Pinter said he also enjoys his job because being able “to tinker with stuff here and there has always been a great hobby of mine.”

TravelCenters of America technician Michael Kerfoot placed first in the competition’s trailer track. FedEx Freight’s Troy Rispoli captured the first-ever title in the light-and-medium-duty vehicle competition.

“The competitors at TMC SuperTech and TMC FutureTech are shining examples of professional excellence for our entire industry,” said ATA President Chris Spear. “I want to congratulate Phillip, Ian, Michael, Troy as well as all of their colleagues and classmates and all of the competitors who demonstrated their immense skills at the competition, and I want to thank them all for what they do to keep our trucks moving.”

FutureTech winner Partak said being a truck technician is “challenging, hands-on, but it’s also technical.”

“There’s a lot more to it than just wrenching,” Partak said.

Partak said his ideal job would be working in an engineering-related position with an engine OEM. “Engines are my passion,” said Partak. “I eat, sleep, breathe engines,” he said.

Ferris State offers a four-year degree in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology, Partak said. “The bachelor’s degree that I’m in helped me immensely,” Partak said.

TMC FutureTech is sponsored by the TechForce Foundation.

FedEx Freight continued its dominance of the TMC SuperTech Team competition, claiming its sixth consecutive title behind Doug Nickles and Matt Sloan, who finished third and fifth individually. Nickles had placed second in SuperTech competition in 2017. FedEx Freight technicians swept the top seven places in the competition, and claimed 12 of the top 20 spots in the heavy-duty competition.

“At a time when we are desperately looking to recruit and retain talent, all of our TMC SuperTech and TMC FutureTech competitors — but especially our winners — give us all a standard to strive for, so congratulations to them,” said TMC Executive Director Robert Braswell in a statement.

George Arrants, who has served as contest chairman for SuperTech for the past 14 years, said that this year marked his final year as contest chairman.

“We want to recognize everyone who does fleet maintenance in any way, shape or form,” Arrants said, noting the expansion of the contest over the years. There will be new leadership for the contest next year, Arrants said.

Top 10 Heavy Duty Track Order of Finish

10th: Marc Place, FedEx Freight

9th: Kyle Ballard, Clarke Power Services

8th: Richard Davis, Nationalease

7th: Joseph Paul, FedEx Freight

6th: Larry Coatney, FedEx Freight

5th: Matt Sloan, FedEx Freight

4th: Philip Barlow, FedEx Freight

3rd: Doug Nickles, FedEx Freight

2nd: Kelby Bentley, FedEx Freight

Grand Champion:  Phillip Pinter, FedEx Freight