Cody Morris from Hebron, Kentucky won Ryder's 2023 Top Technician (“Top Tech”) Skills Competition, an internal program created in 2002 to showcase the skills needed to excel within the company's truck maintenance shops and reward its top performers. This year 2,500 Ryder technicians competed, with 10 finalists meeting in Detroit for the North America Championship event in July. Morris earned $50,000 for finishing first, while the other finalists each took home $10,000.
After passing regional qualifier rounds that included both written and hands-on tests, Morris and the others participated in a series of 10 stations that rotated every 30 minutes, covering topics from preventative maintenance to collision avoidance systems diagnostics.
Morris, a T4 technician in charge (TIC), credited the teamwork at the Hebron shop, located about 16 miles west of Cincinnati, for helping prepare for and ultimately the competition. He said many lead technicians helped mentor him, including Chris Barnett, who was named Ryder Top Tech in 2009 and 2018. Barnett also won American Trucking Association’s (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council National Technician Skills Competition, TMCSuperTech, in 2012.
"Working with those smarter guys like that, it just rubs off,” Morris told Fleet Maintenance. "It’s their questions on some of the stuff I don't see every day that helps to keep me on top of different things.”
Morris said questions from younger techs also keep his skills with general light repairs and maintenance as well.
“I'm not always doing brake jobs, but I have lower technician grades that are," he said. When they ask about a specific wheel-nut spec, for example, Morris and the younger tech will look it up right there "and then we both learn together,” he said.
Ryder also provides time on the job for technicians to take advantage of Ryder's individual, online training every other week, depending on the shop's workload. "That helps to stay on top of new information that's coming out for manufacturers or maybe new policies that we have in Ryder,” the 31-year-old said.
Morris said his BCT-468 system load tester and Milwaukee impact tools help him methodically diagnose and repair trucks. With Ryder servicing a wide variety of vehicles, this helped give Morris a strong, diverse skill base with which to succeed, while also making his role more engaging.
“It’s kind of like your own little competition with yourself every day,” Morris observed.
One such competition pitted Morris against a Freightliner day cab tractor experiencing problems with its anti-lock braking system. While the prevailing opinion was that the ABS was getting interference from another system, over eight hours spread across several days, Morris proceeded to test wheel speed sensors and wiring, eventually narrowing down possible issues. Then, after some targeted trial and error, he discovered that the vehicle needed a new wiring harness. But it’s Morris’ methodical approach that helped him spend days, instead of weeks, on the Freightliner.
“While Cody made it sound easy," it's far from it, noted Rob Alley, senior director of maintenance and learning at Ryder. He said Morris proved he's a Ryder Top Tech because he takes his time "instead of just guessing and throwing parts at stuff."
Even so, Morris emphasized that the Hebron shop experiences its highs and lows together, and even if he was the only one to get $50,000 and a tour around Detroit, he and his peers often celebrate their wins together.
“Because it does take a team,” he concluded.