As equipment and technology have evolved, so has the Technology & Maintenance Council’s (TMC) SuperTech Competition. The annual skills competition brings together the best truck service and repair technicians from across the country to test their knowledge and abilities. This year the event included a test on exhaust aftertreatment systems and added a light- and medium-duty track. The event also featured demo stations on cybersecurity and right-to-repair, which TMC may add to future competitions.
“Over the years as we’ve been expanding the competition, we’ve been looking at all aspects that cover maintenance,” said George Arrants, a consultant to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) and chairman of the TMC SuperConnect skills competition.
Arrants said that overall, TMC tests for process and procedures. “You have service information and TMC recommended practices for a reason. Sometimes technicians, since they've seen something before, jump to that as a problem, but it isn't the root cause, and the vehicle comes back with the same problem again,” he said.
Robert Braswell, executive director of American Trucking Associations’ TMC, said 158 technicians took part in the event. “It helps raise the level of professionalism, and it showcases the talent," he said.
Braswell said some of the more challenging stations are those that focus on electrical, precision measuring or the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s safety compliance
and enforcement program, Compliance, Safety, Accountability. “We challenge the entire technician,” he said.
This year, techs were tested on their knowledge of exhaust aftertreatment systems on the written exam. “We opened it up in the light- medium-duty in a hands-on station. We will move into a hands-on in a heavy-duty test as well,” Arrants said.
This is the second year TMC has had a demo cybersecurity station. Keeping data secure is increasing in importance, particularly with the development of blockchain. Jack Legler, technical director for TMC, said any time information is traveling through the J1939 data bus, there is potential for it to be hacked.
“If you hack into the system through the weakest point, you can theoretically get to anything,” Legler said. “There isn’t just the truck and the functioning as a truck, it is also all of the data systems attached to it.”
The right-to-repair demo station was designed to teach techs how to request information from a manufacturer so they can repair a vehicle. Arrants said the right-to-know concept was rolled over from the automotive side. “Right-to-know requires that the manufacturers provide the service information or the information to anyone to repair these vehicles,” he said.
Several years ago TMC added FutureTech, which is designed to engage future technicians in the industry as well as the competition. “These are techs that have already chosen, potentially, the trade through the courses they’re taking, but we’re trying to introduce them to TMC,” Arrants said. “The other piece is getting their instructors involved in TMC and getting them to understand who we are so they can influence all of their students to get involved.”
The competition can also teach future techs and their instructors which skills are essential within the industry. "We don’t have a shortage of technicians in this country. We have a shortage of qualified applicants,” Arrants said, adding that a lot of times, what is being taught isn’t what is needed. “Many diesel programs still spend most of their time spending engines. Let's be honest, there isn't a fleet in the world that is putting a 19-year-old on a $60,000 engine.”
Instead, it is more valuable for techs to be spending time learning preventive maintenance, precision measuring, and electric and braking systems, Arrants said.