ORLANDO, FLA. -- Organizers of the SuperTech competition at Disney World’s Dolphin Resort say they are ready to test 133 top technicians from across the United States beginning Monday. High scorers will emerge after two days of pitting their skills against pre-arranged flaws in 25 different areas of truck diagnostics and repairs, with the winners announced at a lunch on Wednesday.
The competition is part of the annual Fall Meeting of the Technology & Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations. TMC is SuperTech’s sponsoring organization. Scores of educational sessions for fleet managers and supplier representatives will be held starting Monday and run through late Thursday morning.
The program aims to showcase maintenance technicians’ skill and experience and boost respect for the profession, said George Arrants, an independent maintenance consultant and program director for the WheelTime network, who spearheaded SuperTech’s development since its beginning in 2004.
As in previous years, competitors survived months of preliminary exams administered by fleets and state trucking associations before traveling to the testing venue, said Robert Braswell, TMC's technical director.
Competition includes 11 testing stations on Monday and 14 on Tuesday. Technicians score points at each station, ranging from electrical troubleshooting to correcting flaws in a diesel to tire and wheel repairs and bearing adjustments.
A new station this year involves engine accessory drive belts, which now can wear out with no traditional telltale signs, Braswell said. Because of modern materials, belts do not chafe, crack, show cording or otherwise display obvious failures. However, their ribs, or cogs, will become thinner, and a special tool must be used to measure such wear; techs must know how to use the tool.
The competition has practical and financial benefits for trucking companies that support techs, because the tests require proper diagnostic procedures that ensure a problem is not just fixed, but fixed the right way, said Michael Meredith, chairman of the 2014 Professional Development Committee, SuperTech’s organizing body. He is a western regional maintenance director for FedEx Freight.
Tractors, semitrailers and straight trucks are assembled in a large hall in the Dolphin convention center’s basement, and most are rigged with glitches that competitors must find and fix. Major fleets donate use of the vehicles, most of them brand new, and everyone tests on the same equipment to ensure fairness.
All competitors this year are men, but women with mechanical and electrical talents have entered in past years and done well, the organizers said. Women comprise small percentages of students at technical schools, but are usually the top learners because they are patient, detail oriented, and determined to succeed in a man’s world.
The top scorers in this competition, and the champion, will be lauded at the Wednesday lunch. Many will receive awards of cash, tools and merchandise, and some will get expense-paid trips to NASCAR races.