Branden Yost works through the challenge at the station for Heavy-Duty Starting & Charging during Top Tech.  -  Photo: Wayne Parham

Branden Yost works through the challenge at the station for Heavy-Duty Starting & Charging during Top Tech.

Photo: Wayne Parham

Some of the most talented technicians from Cox Automotive Mobility converged on Indianapolis, Indiana, to compete in the company’s annual skills challenge event, Top Tech. Thirty technicians faced various challenges and when all scores were tallied three winners and three runners-up were selected.

“This is for our technicians. We put this together to celebrate our technicians, to give them the respect that they deserve. They got here on their commitment and their trade, their education, their learning,” said Larry Fowler, senior manager of maintenance for Cox Automotive Fleet Services and chairman of the 2023 Top Tech Committee.

An assortment of OEMs were on hand staffing various stations where the technicians competed. One example, Folwer points out, is how Hendrickson ran the alignment station, using its equipment and suspension. In a similar fashion, liftgate manufacturer Maxon conducted the skills test related to liftgates. The representatives of companies who manufactured the equipment not only staffed the stations but in many cases also designed the challenges. 

“Nobody should be able to challenge our technicians better than the manufacturer that made the step,” Fowler said, after citing Maxon as an example.

Qualification Process

Techs interested in competing at Top Tech start by taking an online written qualifier exam. An invitation to take the qualifier is sent to about 2,300 technicians employed by Cox Automotive (Fleet Services, Cox Mobility, and Manheim). The qualifier is very challenging, said Fowler, and only 700 chose to take it.

In each category of the qualifier, the top 10 scores are selected, and those technicians compete in Indianapolis at the Indiana Convention Center in a large expo hall Cox Automotive, for the event at least, has dubbed the Battle Arena.

Only 30 are selected to compete in Indianapolis. Of those, they are split into three competition categories:

  • Heavy-duty
  • Trailer
  • Light/Medium-Duty

Although Fowler is front and center when it comes to planning the competition, his ongoing role with Cox Automotive is to support the technicians. Commonly he receives calls from techs seeking advice or asking for solutions. He also builds a rapport with the ones competing at Top Tech and when they return to work, they sometimes call more often than the others.

Nathaniel Scott James tackles the alignment evaluation while competing in the trailer category.  -  Photo: Wayne Parham

Nathaniel Scott James tackles the alignment evaluation while competing in the trailer category.

Photo: Wayne Parham

Competition

The heavy-duty and light/medium-duty competitors each visit 15 skill stations that challenge their knowledge and abilities on topics such as air system, air disc brakes, wheel end, starting and charging, Technology & Maintenance Council Recommended Practices manual, fasteners, and more.

The technicians competing in the trailer category visit stations such as electronics, alignment, liftgate, and preventative maintenance.

Fowler said the challenge creators are told to make the tasks hard, ideally, so nobody scores a perfect 100.

But once a skills challenge is complete, then no matter the outcome, technicians have a great learning opportunity before moving on to their next rotation.

“The instructions that we give to the judges is once you're done, once you've scored the sheet, if they want to ask questions, absolutely answer. Because this is a learning event,” Fowler said. “It's direct access for our technicians to the brightest minds in the industry, the guys who can advise them and teach them.”

2023 Winners

The first and second-place winners for 2023 in the Cox Automotive Top Tech competition are:

  • Jose Feliciano – 1st place, Heavy-Duty
  • Jeremy Piepmeier – 2nd place, Heavy-Duty          
  • Zach Nikorak – 1st place, Light/Medium Duty
  • AJ Snyder (Manheim) – 2nd place, Light/Medium Duty
  • Michael “Jr” Kerfoot – 1st place, Trailer
  • Bud Haney (Trudell) – 2nd place, Trailer

Each of the first-place winners will be sponsored by Cox Automotive to compete in the American Trucking Associations’ TMCSuper Tech competition. The winners also received prizes from several large sponsors of Top Tech.

First-place winners were Zach Nikorak, Michael Kerfoot, and Jose Feliciano.  -  Photo: Cox Automotive/HDT Illustration

First-place winners were Zach Nikorak, Michael Kerfoot, and Jose Feliciano.

Photo: Cox Automotive/HDT Illustration

 

About the author
Wayne Parham

Wayne Parham

Senior Editor

Wayne Parham brings more than 30 years of media experience to Work Truck's editorial team and a history of covering a variety of industries and professions. Most recently he served as senior editor at Police Magazine, also has worked as publisher of two newspapers, and was part of the team at Georgia Trend magazine for nine years.

View Bio
0 Comments