If you39ve made it to this room it39s safe to say you39re a very skilled truck tech The winners of the 2016 Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo pose together with company CEO WM Rusty Rush and winning NASCAR driver Tony Stewart at left and rightcenter in front row respectively Dec 13 2016 in San Antonio Aaron Marsh/ Fleet Owner

If you've made it to this room, it's safe to say you're a very skilled truck tech. The winners of the 2016 Rush Truck Centers Tech Skills Rodeo pose together with company CEO W.M. Rusty Rush and winning NASCAR driver Tony Stewart (at left and right-center in front row, respectively) Dec. 13, 2016, in San Antonio.

What makes for a top truck technician

Fleets and trucking companies today compete just as much — or more so — for good technicians as they do in the constant search for drivers. Fleet Owner spoke with some of the best around to get insight on what makes them tick: why'd they become a truck technician, what's good, what isn't?

Here are five quick interviews with some of the winners from Rush Truck Centers' 2016 Tech Skills Rodeo that wrapped up last month.

We asked the same questions and heard some different answers, finding that some of these top techs had been truck drivers first, heard about the job by word-of-mouth through friends or grew up with ratchet in hand.

Many also seem to like the challenge that being a truck technician offers.

What needs to change about the job? Not a thing, some say, except maybe some misperceptions or an OEM practice or two. It'd be nice if you could cherry-pick the jobs that come your way, although no one really expects that.

And you'd better understand that if you're going to be a highly skilled truck technician today and be successful, there's a lot of nuanced technology in these vehicles and things have been changing rapidly — so you need to stay sharp. Read on: this is what we heard.



Lucas Manlief of Rush Truck Center - Indianapolis, all-around champion of the 2016 Tech Skills Rodeo

FO: What got you into being a truck technician?

"I actually kind of fell into the job — I used to drive a truck, and then I started working on them.

"So I guess you could say I found my calling."

FO: What's good about the job? What do you like?

"The job gives me satisfaction. I like fixing a truck and keeping a guy out on the road. That's what I like about it — just finishing a job and seeing that it gets done right.

"There's also a huge variety of things [you work on]. It keeps it interesting that you don't get the same stuff over and over."

FO: What would make the job better? Could something be improved?

"I actually wouldn't change a thing about it. The way the job is and just the little quirks of it keep it interesting for me — I don't have any real complaints.

"If a friend of mine was interested in being a truck technician, I'd tell him to go for it. It's a challenge, it's never boring, and there's always something different you'll be doing."



Marc Hurley of Rush Truck Center - Denver, second-place finisher in the Vocational division

FO: What got you into being a truck technician?

"Over the last 25 years, I've literally either been driving or working on trucks — going back and forth, back and forth."

FO: What's good about the job? What do you like?

"The mechanical aspect of being a truck technician has always been easy. Figuring out the problem is just a skill that comes naturally to me, and I enjoy it.

"And there's a lot of variety to it — we see all kinds of different things."

FO: What would make the job better? Could something be improved?

"More education is always good. It's hard to keep up with the technology — just doing that takes constant learning.

"And actually, all the older guys like me who've been around for 25 years or however long, we have to play catch-up with a lot of the new technology.

"You've got kids coming into this with the computer skills [needed to fix today's trucks] and everything else right off the bat. So they may get it easier and have that advantage."



Paul Serr of Rush Truck Center - Denver, first-place finisher in the Eaton Heavy Duty division

FO: What got you into being a truck technician?

"I was too tall to work on cars. That's an honest answer!

"I wanted to be a car mechanic, and then I joined the military. I started working on trucks in the military and I thought, 'This is my calling.'

"You can stand up and work on it [a heavy truck] in front of you instead of having to slouch over."

FO: What's good about the job? What do you like?

"I like the high-pressure demand and turnaround. Of course, the income is good, especially if you're a high-performance technician.

"So you can earn — you've got good earnings potential. And I rock it out." [laughs]

FO: What would make the job better? Could something be improved?

"It's tough to think of anything I'd change. They [OEMs] are changing things so fast right now, it's hard to keep up with what they're changing it to.

"Sometimes it's really hard to follow up when someone's already diagnosed something. Maybe they've gone in an incorrect direction.

"I will say that I'd like to see the manufacturers stop making things unserviceable and requiring a complete assembly replacement. It can be so expensive for the customer.

"They might make a hub assembly that's non-serviceable, and if something goes wrong, it's an entire hub. And here I am telling the customer it's going to be $1,700 for a hub, when he could've replaced one bearing and it'd be $200.

"But that has a catch: with a serviceable hub, for example, it's got to be serviced by somebody who knows what they're doing. With a real technician, that should always be set up properly and should never fail.

"If it's a non-serviceable hub [that's replaced as a unit], it's just torque it and forget it."



Shane Myers of Rush Truck Center - Springfield, OH, first-place finisher in the Specialty Bus division

FO: What got you into being a truck technician?

"I grew up working on trucks with my dad. That's just how I grew up as a kid."

FO: What's good about the job? What do you like?

"I like helping customers and keeping them able to make money.

"The name of the game is uptime in this business; if guys aren't up and running, they're not making money."

FO: What would make the job better? Could something be improved?

"Just in the industry as a whole, when people think 'mechanic,' they think of a dirty, greasy guy in the corner. That couldn't be farther from the truth anymore.

"You've got to be very technologically savvy to keep up with this equipment. Every day is a learning experience, and you have to learn — it's how you stay ahead of the curve.

"That's something I'll mention about here [Rush Truck Centers] is that we get the training and we stay ahead of the curve.

"So I'd say the perception out there needs to change. It's a very technologically difficult job at times because the technology is changing so fast. It's hard for us even to keep up with it — it's a lot to learn.

"But at the end of the day, it's very rewarding to say, 'I figured that out; I got it.'"



Travis Graham of Rush Truck Center - Orlando, first-place finisher in the Peterbilt Medium Duty division and 2015 Rush Tech Rodeo all-around champion

FO: What got you into being a truck technician?

"I started off just working on cars and I always had an interest in pickup trucks. So I saw a job opportunity and just took it one step further — I went all the way to Class 6, 7 and 8 trucks.

"I went to a decent school and it's been a progression. I also have some friends that did it and I'd seen some of the opportunities that they had.

"I knew there are a lot of opportunities in this field."

FO: What's good about the job? What do you like?

"The challenge of the job is a big thing for me. Every day, you really don't know what you're going to get.

"There's always a good change of pace with the variety of it, and there's satisfaction in it."

FO: What would make the job better? Could something be improved?

"I don't know what really could be changed about it or anything I'd want to change; it's really based on customer demand.

"I suppose if you could pick and choose certain jobs, that'd be awesome, but that's out of your hands.

"That's just the way the industry is: some jobs you get are tougher than others."

 

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