Phillip Pinter, a FedEx Freight technician from Romulus, Michigan, claimed the title of Grand Champion at the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council national technicians skills competition.
This is the second grand championship for Pinter, who was joined by FedEx Freight's Jamie Smith in claiming the team championship as part of a clean sweep of the top five by the Memphis, Tennessee-based carrier. Bonnie Greenwood claimed second place in the competition, while Eric Vos, Doug Nickles and Kelby Bentley rounded out the top five.
With her second place finish in the competition, Greenwood became the highest-placing woman in TMCSuperTech history.
Read a Q&A below with the champion and second place winner.
Phillip Pinter, FedEx Freight, 2022 TMCSuperTech Grand Champion
HDT: Do you have any thoughts on winning here today?
Pinter: Well, I definitely need to thank FedEx. They've given me this great opportunity to come and represent them here at TMCSuperTech. I’d also like to thank all the other competitors that came. Just to get to this skill level shows a true commitment to your career. And it was a great competition. Everybody did their best and I'd like to thank each and every one of them.
HDT: How many SuperTech competitions have you done?
Pinter: This is my third SuperTech and my second grand champion finish.
HDT: When did you start as a technician?
Pinter: I started in the automotive market in 2009 and transitioned to the heavy side when I was hired on with FedEx in 2015.
HDT: How did you get your start?
Pinter: I went to the Michigan Institute of Aviation Technology attending their aviation maintenance program. At that time, around 2008, there was a downturn with the economy and the airlines were hurting. There weren't a whole lot of techs needed at that time. That's when I made my decision to transition into automotive. I haven't really looked back, since the automotive and heavy truck industries have treated me very well.
(Pinter said his high school shop and electronics teacher, Ken Jabe, at Dundee Community High School in Michigan, pushed him to pursue a career in the trades.)
HDT: What would you say to anybody tonight who says being a truck technician is not a great job?
Pinter: The pay and the benefits can only go up. And with electrification coming up, there's going to be more advanced technicians with higher skill levels needed more than ever.
HDT: And where do you see your place in that career change?
Pinter: Really hard to tell. I mean, as far as that goes, I'm just going to take it one day at a time, learn as much as I can, and try and keep up as best I can.
HDT: What kind of prep do you do for an event like this?
Pinter: I spent a lot of time with the books. I read through a lot of Recommended Practices trying to brush up on all the good information TMC has published. For the generalized diagnostics I looked through manufacturers’ maintenance manuals with common items.
Fifth wheel kind of sticks out for me, as it was one of the ones that you kind of got to read through the manuals on because each one is a little bit different. For transmissions and engines, I try to stay on top of the current technology. It's a lot of reading; a lot of work and a lot of time that goes into it.
Bonnie Greenwood, FedEx Freight, TMCSuperTech 2022 Second Place Champion
HDT: When you first got into this [being a heavy truck technician] did you see yourself progressing this far, or did you even know about this opportunity when you first started out?
Greenwood: I went to WyoTech for school. And towards the end of my time at WyoTech, they encouraged me to participate in future tech. FedEx actually sponsored me and future tech. And I went on to win it that year back in 2017. Then I joined on with FedEx Freight, and I've been working for them for about five years now. They've been encouraging me to participate in the SuperTech competition, and I decided this year that I thought I had enough experience under my belt that I wanted to commit to trying it. And so here I am.
HDT: You're fairly new at this. Do you have any idea where you want to go in the trade? Is there anything you want to specialize in?
Greenwood: I'm really interested in alternative fuels and going with more ecologically friendly options in our industry. There's so much to learn at this point, and I’m really interested in all that. I actually have a background in natural resources. So, I'd be really neat to try and meld those two fields together in my work.
HDT: Where did you grow up?
Greenwood: I grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, then came west for college. And I've stayed out West ever since.
HDT: What would you tell young people today about a career in the trades, especially as a truck technician?
Greenwood: Even for me, coming out of high school, we were encouraged to go to college and go that normal course, but I went to trade school later in life, and I'm very glad I did. This is a wonderful industry to be in; very dependable. The trucking industry is only going to continue to advance. America runs on trucks and trains, so it's a very dependable industry to be in. Even over the last few years with how crazy things have been, I've worked every day and been able to support my family.
HDT: What attracted you to this at first?
Greenwood: I have a lot of love of math and science and working hands-on. I've talked to a lot of people about it and figured this was a very good industry to get into, considering my passions. And after going to trade school, it has been exactly what I needed.
(Greenwood said she encourages more women to get involved in the industry.
“The trades need more good people, and there's a whole other half of our population that we haven't tapped fully into, yet,” she said. “We can do any job we set our minds to. And so, I really encourage any woman that's at all interested in any trade to chase that down and go after it.”)