Company technicians test their skill level against one another in the Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo.

Changes in vehicle technology, service, maintenance and repair generate the need for knowledge to spread at tremendous speed. If vehicle technicians don’t keep up with their learning, training and skills, their knowledge can quickly become obsolete, which can have a major effect on a fleet’s bottom line.

Technicians continually need to master new knowledge, and the rate of learning has to be greater than the rate of change. The challenge always has affected training — both in-house and outsourced.

It is generally accepted that competition can improve learning and performance. A number of organizations in the trucking industry have put this principle to work to further develop the education and skills of vehicle technicians.

The Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC), by way of example, has created TMCSuperTech — a national technician skills competition. The two-day event was designed to showcase a technician’s diagnostic and problem-solving skills through a series of troubleshooting tests and challenges — both written and hands-on.

TMC is North America’s premier technical society for truck equipment technology and maintenance professionals.

TMCSuperTech is organized by the Professional Technician Development Committee, a group within TMC established to promote professionalism among commercial vehicle technicians.

The event has been likened to an Olympic competition where competitors come to win, but revel in the camaraderie and excitement. It is trucking’s only industry-wide competition dedicated both to honoring technician professionalism and acknowledging the best of the best.

The first phase of the TMCSuperTech is a 100-question examination and a hands-on skill pre-qualification test. From here, the top-scoring 100 or so technicians advance to the Hands-On Skills Challenge — a series of stations that cover 14 key diagnostic skills areas.

From each TMCSuperTech competition, a grand champion is named.

This year’s competition, the seventh annual, will take place Sept. 19 to 22 at the Raleigh Convention Center in Raleigh, N.C. Any technician employed in the trucking industry is eligible to register to compete.

Skills rodeo
Another organization that incorporates competitions into its technician training programs is Rush Truck Centers. Headquartered in New Braunfels, Texas, it is North America’s largest network of heavy- and medium-duty truck dealerships.

The company recently hosted its fifth annual Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo. The event is an intense competition wherein Rush Truck Centers technicians test their skill level against one another. It also exposes technicians to the latest updates from the company’s suppliers and includes exhibits from industry manufacturers and suppliers.

To qualify for the Tech Skills Rodeo, Rush Truck Centers technicians must complete required training throughout the year and then take written examinations.

For the latest rodeo, of the company’s 800 tech-nicians, 350 took more than 700 exams. From this, the top technicians with the highest scores in the divisions qualified to go to San Antonio for the hands-on portion of the Skills Rodeo. Any technician that qualified in more than one division had to pick the division that he wanted to compete in.

The qualifying technicians compete for 15 finalist spots, from which the top technicians are determined. They receive prizes and cash, along with an increase in hourly pay.

Attitude building
In addition to making technicians more competent, the development of technicians through skill-type competitions pays other dividends as well. They help keep technicians motivated and promote team building, as technicians tend to help one another prepare.

Further, competitions help motivate technicians to continue their training and development. This becomes increasingly important as vehicle manufacturers continue to come out with new models, brands, components and systems.

Through competitions, technicians become more proficient as they can identify what skills they need to develop further.

All types of training foster loyalty in technicians. Loyal employees have positive attitudes toward their company as a good place to work, resist offers from other companies and serve above and beyond the call of duty.

With the continuing shortage of technicians, and the greater competition for talent, technicians have other choices of where to work. By continuing their professional and skills development through coaching, mentoring, formal training and skills competitions, companies can retain their best talent. BI