Mohawk Truck Inc.’s Christopher Tate takes top honors
Christopher Tate thought he’d ruined any chance of winning this year’s TMCSuperTech2009 competition when he blew all of his safety points at his second hands-on skills station, tire and wheel. “When they announced that I had won that station, it really floored me,” Tate says. “The thing that I took from that is even if you lose your composure, just slow down, take your time and do everything else.” Not only did Tate, 36, from Mohawk Truck Inc. of Seneca, N.Y., finish first on tire and wheel, he also won wheel end and written test. Tate, who is primarily a Thermo King technician, was overwhelmed when he learned he’d also won the title Grand Champion for his overall performance in the fifth edition of the National Technician Skills Competition held at the American Trucking Association’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) fall meeting in Raleigh, N.C. Tate wins the trophy, a trip for two to the Daytona 500 NASCAR race and a Snap-on tool chest.            

christopher tate, 2009 grand champion

Tate has participated in all five annual events, and finished as high as fourth. How does he prepare? “I’m always looking for more knowledge, always reading technical magazines and manufacturers’ manuals,” he replies. “This year, I did a lot of studying of the TMC Recommended Practices Manual, and that helped a lot.” He also credits his boss, Mike Endres, owner of Mohawk Truck Inc., for his support. “He got me the TMC Radial Tire & Disc Wheel Service Manual and Radial Tire & Disc Wheel Conditions Digest, which helped a lot with the tire and wheel station that I won.”
Overseen by the Professional Technician Development Committee chaired by Lee Long, director of maintenance for Southeastern Freight Lines, the TMCSuperTech competition identifies the industry’s top technician through more than a dozen trouble-shooting tests.
National fleets and service centers were well represented, as were as technicians from small fleets, in the 76 participants who passed the written exam to qualify for the hands-on skills tests.

contestants get started at the tire and wheel station.

Two new skill stations were added this year: fifth wheel and trailer alignment. Interspersed with the skill stations on the convention center floor were displays of clean vehicle technology, including electric and LNG hybrid trucks, 2010 Class 8 production tractors, and DEF bulk storage and dispensing equipment. As tire and wheel station winner, Tate also received a $1,000 gift certificate from Chicago Pneumatic and Noregon Systems. Other skill station prizes included software and gift cards; the top three winners overall also received Midtronics scan tools.
Tate, who has participated in state technician skills contest since 2001, offers this advice to prospective competitors: “If you go and are overwhelmed the first year, don’t be discouraged. Take it as a learning experience and go back and try to get it again.”
Rick Grivel, Alpharetta, Ga., was second overall, and Christopher Barnett, Florence, Ky. was third—both are technicians for Ryder System Inc. Fourth to 10th-place finishers were: Michael Bogard, Ryder System Inc. (Wis.); Michael John Vallery, Oak Harbor Freight Lines Inc. (Ore.); Grant Allen Cherry, Wal-Mart Transportation LLC (Ore.); Richard Zacholl, Swift Transportation Co. Inc. (N.Y.); Jimmie Slusher, Ryder System Inc. (Tenn.); Ray Wordekemper, Omaha Truck Center (Neb.); and Thomas R. Pianalto, Diamond International (Ark.).

Judge, Lew Flowers (right), words with contestant Tim Zieman on the fastener skill station.

The next TMCSuperTech will return to the Raleigh Convention Center Sept. 20-23, 2010.  FE

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