TMCSuperTech Casts Spotlight on Country’s Top Technicians

Skills Event Blends Camaraderie and Competition
Doug Nickles (second from left)
Doug Nickles of FedEx Freight (second from left) celebrates his win with (from left) Technician and Educator Committee Chairman David Kegley, TMCSuperTech Competition Chairman Randy Patterson and TMC Chairman Todd Cotier. (American Trucking Associations)

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Competition brings out the best in us whether it’s play, sport or work, and there aren’t many times when two or more of those occasions merge. That thought crossed my mind while I was in Cleveland last month during the TMC­SuperTech Technician Skills Competition.

Of course, there’s the camaraderie.

More than 100 technicians and vocational students competed to show off their skills. Several fleets were represented, with some bringing out multiple technicians to represent them in the competition. They also gathered to share their expertise and encourage each other throughout the week.

During the first day of TMCSuperTech, I spoke with Bobby Key, a shop lead technician with Shamrock Environmental based in Browns Summit, N.C., as he was also chatting it up with his fellow technicians. While describing his experience, other techs couldn’t help but chime in and offer their takes as well. The spirited fellowship that flowed with inside jokes and laughter was a constant buzz during the skills contest.

However, it is a competition.

Michael Freeze


Aside from the smiles and well-wishes among technicians, this was a battle to be the best. Soon after he captured the 2023 Grand Champion honor, Doug Nickles from FedEx Freight explained that his victory was based on the ultimate focus of putting his head down, along with his teammates, and working on his weaknesses and making them his strengths. One of those challenges was in the EV safety station, where he and Key acknowledged the difficultly of the subject. This was definitely one of the wrinkles that the competition committee included to keep the techs on their toes.

As the work of a career technician, as Technology & Maintenance Council Chairman Todd Cotier told me, “is not for the faint of heart,” performing the job in a competition capacity makes the performance of all the technicians even more impressive. For a position in which you’re often approached to solve a problem, spending two days demonstrating your skills and knowledge about vehicle technology is a feat that most people wouldn’t dare try, let alone excel.

Those layers of the fleet technician are much deeper than I’ve explained, and for those pursuing a career, it can become a great builder of character, hard work and dedication.

Speaking of which, several fleets and OEMs are finding those same attributes in our country’s servicemen. Just recently, Peterbilt partnered with Transition Overwatch, a company that helps veterans find employment and transition to the civilian workforce. Programs such as these demonstrate how the industry is trying to fill the gap of the technician shortage. In this quarter’s cover story, we explained how fleets are making that connection with our servicemen and help them make a smooth transition. While there are distinct differences, there are several parallels to be drawn — the work, focus and community — when discussing coming from the military into vehicle tech.

Programs like Peterbilt’s may not solve the entire problem of the technician shortage, but it’s a step in the right direction.

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