Challenge Accepted

A 10-foot storm surge in the Florida Keys. A 7-foot storm surge in Naples, Florida. When Hurricane Irma made landfall in mid-September, it was labeled a Category 4 – the first storm that size to hit Florida since 2004. More than 200 miles north in Orlando, Florida, two premiere skills challenges were scheduled to take place – the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Technology and Maintenance Council’s (TMC) SuperTech National Technicians Skills Competition and the International Foodservice Distributors Association’s (IFDA) Truck Driving Championship. However, the storm had disrupted transportation logistics putting in question the availability of trucks and trailers for the events.

But the hurricane couldn’t stop Great Dane from delivering on its trailer commitments.

For the TMC SuperTech program, eight 53-foot dry vans that were to be used in the competition were in Tampa, Florida, to be cleaned and prepped for the event, but they were stalled by the storm. Walmart arranged to transport the trailers to Orlando, where Tony Neven, Great Dane Aftermarket Service manager, and Jim Wyman of Central Valley Trailer Repair in Fresno, California, washed the trailers by hand. For the IFDA Truck Driving Championship, members of the distributor planning committee with CDLs hit the road to bring three 48-foot trailers up from Tampa.

The effort was more than worth it when the equipment began to roll in to Orlando. This year’s TMC SuperTech program featured a new schedule that included a written test, a series of qualifying rounds, a separate track for trailer technicians, and the final Hands-On Skills Challenge. Neven had helped develop the test curriculum and also chaired the alignment station alongside Steve McDonald from Hutchens Industries. Tim Montes from Eight Point Trailer in Fontana, California, Jim Wyman from Central Valley Trailer Repair in Fresno and Colin Duncan from the Great Dane Training department served as judges.

In the end, Mark McLean, a FedEx Freight technician from Montgomery, New York, won his third Grand Champion title at the National Technicians Skills Competitions, which is the most titles ever won in the 13-year history of the event. Darrell Duggan from Wal-Mart Transportation LLC, won the TMC SuperTech Trailer Technician Competition, besting 20 other competitors. In another history-making win, Bonnie Greenwood, a student from WyoTech in Laramie, Wyoming, became the first woman to win the TMC FutureTech National Student Technician Competition.

Over at the IFDA Truck Driving Championship, drivers took a written exam that included 40 questions ranging from road laws to vehicle safety. After that, they performed a pre-trip inspection and navigated through a challenging field course. During the pre-trip, each driver inspected a vehicle in their class of competition to find 10 planted defects that could affect driving safety. During the field course, drivers navigated six challenges that simulated situations they face on the road. The competition concluded with an awards banquet on Sunday evening to recognize top finishers in each category: Anthony Garcia, Shamrock Foods Co., Phoenix, took first place in the straight truck competition; Gary Noyes, Shamrock Foods Co., Albuquerque, New Mexico, took first place in the 28-foot tractor trailer competition; and Adam Caughey, Reinhart Foodservice, Marshall, Minnesota, took first place in the 48-foot tractor trailer competition.

These events provide a much needed and appreciated opportunity to recognize talented operations support staff, showcasing their knowledge and skill.