Photos by Tom Berg
PITTSBURGH -- Technicians from FedEx Freight finished first, second, third and fourth in the TMC’s annual SuperTech competition that ended Wednesday, with Mark McLean Jr. from New York state named grand champion.
Three additional company techs finished further down in the Top 30 rankings released by organizers from the Technology & Maintenance Council, whose fall meeting is winding down here.
Mark McLean Jr., grand champion in this year’s SuperTech competition, shares the glow of victory with his significant other, Amanda Johnson. McLean works for FedEx Freight in Montgomery, N.Y. Six more of the carrier’s techs were also in the Top 30 rankings.
McLean, 24, maintains equipment at FedEx Freight’s shop in Montgomery, N.Y. He lives in Gardner, N.Y., and was competing for the third time in SuperTech. He says he works on everything the fleet has, but most enjoys diagnosing puzzling problems.
“I like a challenge,” he says. “Working through it and figuring it out is very satisfying for me.”
He realized he had a mechanical aptitude when he was very young.
“I’ve always been interested in mechanical things, ever since I was a little kid – cars, trucks, airplanes, anything – it pretty much has consumed my life. My parents recognized it and sent me to a trade school, and it worked out well.” He’s been working for FedEx Freight for six years.
“I knew he would do it,” said Amanda Johnson, McLean’s significant other, who joined him at the front of the room just after the announcement. “He’s been studying every night. He’s worked really, really hard. He’s so smart.” She said he does fix things around home, and, “My parents run an auto repair shop and he’s down there a lot, doing things.”
The next three finishers work for FedEx Freight elsewhere in the country -- Eric Voss, in second place, from Boise, Idaho; Jeffrey Ostby, third, in Spokane, Wash.; and Derek Southerland, fourth, in Knoxville, Tenn.
The number nine finisher was Jonathon Berg, a technician at the carrier’s shop in Roseville, Minn.; 14th was Mitchell Buelow in Fremont, Ind.; and 21st was Chuck Kerr, a tech at FedEx Freight’s shop in Schertz, Texas.
Finishing fifth in this year’s SuperTech was a two-time grand champion, Jeffrey Schlecht from Omaha Truck Center, who won in 2010 and 2011. He works at the Freightliner dealer’s location in Norfolk, Neb.
Nine technicians from Ryder System finished at various levels in the Top 30, as did four techs from Walmart Transportation. Other fleets whose employees finished in the elite ranked group included Swift Transportation and Con-way.
Each of the Top 30 finishers received tools and cash prizes. Winnings got richer with the higher scoring techs, and the top three each garnered tools and diagnostic equipment, hundreds of dollars in gift cards, and tickets and paid travel to NASCAR races next year in Indianapolis, Talladega and Daytona. Prizes were donated by 34 sponsoring companies.
Competitors moved among 24 stations formed by trucks, tractors, converter dollies and trailers that were assembled in a hall in a downtown Pittsburgh convention center for the ninth annual SuperTech competition.
TMC said 128 technicians from around the U.S. won their way to Pittsburgh by topping hundreds more competitors in state-level contests. SuperTech, now in its ninth year, is the highest level in the nationwide competition that encourages talented young people to become truck technicians and honors them for their prowess.
As in previous years, this SuperTech evaluated competitors’ skills in mechanical, electrical and electronic categories using trucks, tractors, trailers and converter dollies provided by sponsoring fleets and manufacturers. They were assembled in a hall at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center downtown.
A written test on Monday gauged their overall knowledge, while 24 skills stations on Tuesday challenged their problem-solving abilities. Challenges ranged from torqueing lug nuts and repairing fifth wheels to tracing electrical shorts and using electronic diagnostic tools to run down faults planted by organizers in engine control modules.
All tests had time limits enforced by volunteer judges from industry companies. Each test was scored in points, and the technician winning the most total points was declared the grand champion.
Skills station winners were also announced at the TMC luncheon, and each of three winners at each station also received various cash and merchandise prizes.
The technicians’ employers paid travel expenses for them and in some cases for spouses and children. Employers included fleets, dealers, and truck stops. Scores of volunteers from sponsoring companies served as organizers, judges and administrative assistants in SuperTech.
Click here for a slide show of the competitors in action.
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