MONCTON, N.B. — As a boy, Jeff Young was always curious about how things worked. He says he helped his father and grandfather, who were heavy equipment operators, fix “things in the backyard.”
That backyard experience sparked his interest in trucks, and years later Young would land an apprentice’s role at Lounsbury Truck Center in Moncton, N.B., a dealer for Mack and Volvo heavy-duty vehicles.
That was 20 years ago.
This year, Young led a team of four to the 2019 Mack Masters Competition in Allentown, Pa., organized by the Mack Academy.
The annual contest evaluates participants’ knowledge of Mack service systems and procedures and pits teams from across North and South America against each other.
The other members of the Lounsbury team were Dave Boudreau, Nathan Mullin and Sheri Quinn. As captain, Young also came up with a name for the team – Top Dogs.
Boudreau wasn’t initially attracted to trucks. He was interested in equipment, but after noticing that the demand for trucks is much higher, he decided to go into trucking.
Like Young, Mullin had a curious mind too, and often tinkered with tools, which led him to “bigger things like trucks.”
When Quinn joined Lounsbury, she knew nothing about the industry as she was more interested in economics, technology and customer relations. She eventually realized the potential, and decided to stay on for a fulfilling career that has now spanned 25 years.
The Top Dogs have a combined experience of 77 years in the industry. While Young and Boudreau are certified Mack Masters Technicians, Mullin, the youngest member on the team, is working toward obtaining his credentials.
Master technicians usually have about 10 years of experience, said Susan Cole, operations manager at Lounsbury.
“It can be achieved before that by going through all the courses, but if the experience is not there, you will have the title, not the ability.”
The competition began last November, with early rounds of online challenges. In all, more than 500 teams comprising some 2,000 contestants participated, with 10 teams moving on to represent their region in the finals.
“There was no internal competition to select a team,” said Cole. Dozens of teams from Canada entered the contest, but the Top Dogs were the ones who made it to the final rounds.
For the first time, an apprentice team, Pac Coast One, from Pacific Coast Heavy Truck Group in Vancouver, B.C., was also invited to participate.
“We have been working on the competition since we got back from the Volvo Vista Tech semifinals in Sweden last year,” said Cole.
She said each team member spent more than 60 hours preparing for the Mack competition.
But at the end, their efforts fell short. The winner this year was Team Rise for the Anthem, from Bruckner Truck Sales in Shreveport, La.
“The competition was very hard because you never know what to study,” said Cole, adding that the contest also involved repairs the Top Dogs had never done before.
“Also being on the spot with a 30-minute time limit is pretty stressful when you see the clock counting down.”
But it was not all work and no play in Allentown, Young said, adding that the team had just one day of business and five days of pleasure.
“The biggest takeaway for us from the competition is that we are getting rewarded by being some of the best in the world, by both Mack Trucks and our company.”
He said the team has a competitive nature, which always pushes them to do better.
“Two years ago, we came in third in Canada, so we knew we had a chance. Then last year with Volvo, we came in first in Canada and went to Sweden. We definitely are going to compete again.”
Young believes the experience will help the group with high-pressure jobs with tight deadlines.
“Because you will never get more stressful than a 30-minute timer to find out and repair a next to impossible scenario like we were doing on the competition.”
The Top Dogs also enjoyed mingling with some of the other teams and sharing views on the challenges.
“However, the best part was probably talking to the engineers and giving them feedback on some of the issues we see and getting a direct answer,” Young said.
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