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After an abbreviated meeting and TMCSuperTech competition, this year’s American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council Fall Meeting and National Technician Skills Competition is back at full strength.
The fall meeting, to convene in Cleveland Sept. 25-29, will be the first since 2019 that the annual TMCSuperTech, the national technician skills competitions, will get back to its normal mode: a hands-on skills challenge and written exams. Last year, TMCSuperTech was limited to only a written test.
This year’s meeting, titled “Diagnostic Excellence for Today and Tomorrow,” will also be a return to normal from last year when the 2021 annual spring meeting was virtual.
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Robert Braswell, TMC executive director, explained that attendance last year surged with more than 3,000 registrants, as last year’s Fall Meeting served as a nonofficial, in-person annual meeting. However, he pointed out that the TMC22 Fall Meeting, at the Huntington Convention Center, should reach its usual size whereby the conference is expected to see more than 1,200 attendees this year.
“The focus is placed a little bit more squarely on the technicians, which has been the case for the last 17 years,” he said about the fall conference.
TMCSuperTech 2022, the 17th annual National Technician Skills Competitions, is designed to determine the industry’s top technician through a variety of troubleshooting tests and skills challenges. The competition schedule includes a written test, series of qualifying rounds and the final Hands-on Skills Challenge. There will be three professional tracks: traditional (heavy-duty), trailer and light/medium vehicle.
Another track will be dedicated to technician students called Future Tech 2022.
“We have nearly 150 people that will be competing,” Braswell said. “It’s getting pretty close to where we were pre-COVID pandemic. So, we are pleased about that.”
The competition kicks off on the event’s first day and winners will be announced during the TMCSuperTech 2022 Awards Banquet, which is open to both contestants and meeting attendees.
Technicians are getting focused for the hands-on challenges and practicing for the written test. Last year’s Grand Champion, Christopher Tate from Mohawk Truck, noted that overall preparation is key to placing in the competition.
“My approach would be to look at the categories, study and read up on what you don’t know,” he said. “The competition is about learning something from that.”
Tate is also a two-time TMCSuperTech Grand Champion, winning the competition in 2009. After 16 years of competing in the event, he retired from competition and will be on the other side of the event this year serving as a TMCSuperTech judge. Tate said the competing technicians should place emphasis on the categories they are not regularly exposed to in the garage bay.
“The stuff you do every day comes natural, it’s the stuff you’re not doing all the time that you have to read up on and study about it,” he explained, noting that techs should go into the competition knowing that they may not have all the solutions.
“You just have to try to do your best in every station. You’re not going to score through every station. You’re going to have a bad station,” Tate said. “The judges test you on such a variety of stuff. No one knows everything.”
As the technicians’ skills competitions takes up a day of the Fall Meeting, it’s best for the techs to keep an even keel and steadiness toward their performance, Tate noted.
“When you go to the station that you didn’t do good in, brush it right off because you’re going right into another station,” he recommended. “Treat every station like it’s your job and you just need to get (the part) working. You’re there to fix what they have broken.”
Tate said that TMCSuperTech has made him a better technician.
“I like going into it wanting to study up and learn something about it so I could represent myself well,” he said. “TMC has training available for the technicians and the Recommended Practices are a great source of information to answer questions on just about any area that you can think of involving a tractor-trailer.”
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In addition to TMCSuperTech, the Technology and Maintenance Council Fall Meeting will consist of several task force sessions that cover technician-related items such as brakes, trailers, tire and wheel, engine, electrical and fleet maintenance management.
“We will have a session on the effects of downspeeding for today’s braking systems that will be cutting edge, due to the diagnostic tools used today. Sessions like these will help techs strengthen their true intellectual and diagnostic communication,” Braswell said. “So I think there’s a mix there, which is usually what the whole meeting is all about the first couple of days. It’s about the technician and then the rest of the meeting, it’s about the managers. So it’s a nice mix.”