Leaders of the pack

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There may be a diesel technician shortage, but there was no shortage of technical prowess among the competitors in the Technology and Maintenance Council’s first SuperTech competition held in Valley Forge, Pa. Steve Talmadge, a technician with Premier Truck Centers in Fultondale, Ala., was named the first-place winner, beating out 65 other contenders for the honor and receiving a Snap-On toolbox valued at about $20,000 and a trip to next year’s Daytona 500. Matthew Van Zanten and Mike Bogart from Ryder placed second and third and will go on to the Daytona 500 trip next year with Talmadge.

The tough competition consisted of a written test and a series of hands-on workstations testing ability in areas such as heavy-duty truck electrical systems, powertrains and suspension systems.

Dennis Fussell, director of service operations for Premier Truck Centers, says the whole team is excited about Talmadge’s award. “We are really proud of him. He’s the kind of worker who will accomplish any given task with skill, professionalism and dedication.” Fussell says.

Recruiting and retaining skilled technicians is the bane of every service manager’s existence, and leaders like Talmadge are worth their weight in gold. “This is hard, crummy work, but it’s necessary work,” Fussell says. “These kinds of competitions are good because they spotlight the skills and professionalism of top techs. We’ve got to get the word out that this is a good career for a hard-working person with a good work ethic.”

Robert Brasewell, technical director for TMC, says that’s one of the reasons TMC started the competition. “We wanted to raise the awareness of the commercial vehicle technician as a viable and rewarding career path among students,” Brasewell says.

The event was a huge success, and they already are making plans for a bigger and better one in 2006. “We want to celebrate the skill and knowledge that keeps the rigs on the road,” Brasewell says.

Back home in Fultondale, Ala., a celebration is planned for Talmadge, but Fussell has his own reward ready. “I told Talmadge that if he won, I’d write him a $500 check. And I did.”

Rewards and recognition all contribute to results. “I’m not looking for a God’s gift to a wrench – I’m looking for a solid, basic guy that has a great work ethic,” Fussell says. “That’s Talmadge and all the guys who work for me. It’s that simple.”

Sometimes, it’s the simple ideas that make the most sense. Attracting and retaining top techs can begin with recognizing the skilled ones you have – encouraging a mentoring system that raises the bar. After that, it’s a matter of getting the word out about the profession. “They are out there – I’ve just got to find them,” Fussell says.