Technically the Best

From a shortlist of five Kenworth technicians across Australia, Mark O’Dwyer of Hallam Truck Centre, was named the 2022 Kenworth Technician of the Year.

The search for the 2022 Kenworth Technician of the Year began in October 2021.

All service technicians at Kenworth Dealerships Australia wide were invited to participate in the competition, which aims to recognise and reward the best of the best truck technicians.

The event encompasses five practical assessments which measure technical skills, product knowledge, engine expertise and professionalism in a combination of electrical, mechanical and system testing.

Mark O’Dwyer is an auto electrician by trade and completed his apprenticeship at Hallam Truck Centre where he continues to work to this day.

Before Hallam Truck Centre he worked at ReCar Truck Repairs during school holidays and for work experience.

“I started as an apprentice here at Hallam in 2003 which was right at the beginning of electronics in commercial vehicles,” Mark recalls. “I’ve seen electronics go from providing very basic fuel control to now controlling almost everything on the truck. I’m still an auto electrician and I’m one of those guys who takes on everything.”

As proof of his versatility, Mark has previously won the DAF Technician of the Year award in 2021.

In 2022 he made finals for both of the PACCAR brands affording him the opportunity to choose which one he pursued.

“I thought I’d have a go at the Kenworth one and try for back-to-back wins,” he says.

The competition process begins with four timed online tests involving the use of Kenworth and DAF service manuals and accessing the correct information.

The top four technicians and the top apprentice move on to the finals which were held at the PACCAR dealership in Laverton.

“They had five different trucks set up with multiple faults in them so each person picks a truck and has 45 minutes to figure what was wrong and to show you knew how to diagnose it properly,” explains Mark. “Then the examiners would reset the faults for the next contestant and you’d go onto finding the next truck’s faults. I don’t do a lot of mechanical stuff anymore so I had to work harder at the mechanical issues, but I got through them. The electrical ones were a breeze but only because that’s what we do here every day.”

The finalists received over $30,000 worth of prizes, including a voucher for Snap-On tools and this year included an additional incentive for the first placed Kenworth Technician of the Year winner to join Supercars’ Team 18 as a garage crew member at the 2022 Repco Bathurst 1000 in October.

Mark describes himself as a “car guy” and is building a street rod based on a 1941 Dodge pickup and is performing all of the fabrication, bodywork and paint tasks himself so he is likely to have a lot to offer when he’s at ‘The Mountain’.

Mark O’Dwyer.

Mark, more recently, moved in to the role of supervisor of the pre-delivery department at Hallam Truck Centre, a position in which he combines still being “on the tools” for more than half of his time.

“I’ve sort of slid out of the workshop diagnostic side of things lately but I’m still looking after the other three auto electricians here as well as a first-year apprentice,” he says.

“In addition to running the pre-delivery department, I am often carrying out electrical fit-ups of components in new trucks.” As he approaches it, Mark doesn’t see any issues with the mix of American and European trucks although he has a slightly different approach to each.

“Some of these European trucks can test me out a little bit. The DAF is more diagnostic-centred with computers, whereas with a Kenworth there is still a lot more visual work looking for issues. But they are catching up pretty quickly.”

Over the past few years Mark has regarded the development and availability of the PACCAR MX engines in some Kenworth models as a move which hasn’t created many challenges for technicians, despite using ‘metric’ engines in ‘imperial’ chassis.

“Because we are a DAF dealer as well, we are pretty used to them, and now with the new Kenworth T410s it’s pretty seamless,” he says.

The widespread industry shortage of good technicians is as concerning as the lack of good drivers and Mark is in a position to identify what he considers to be a fundamental problem.

“From what I can tell, young kids today are just going off into the building trades or want to work with computers. Unless they have grown up in a family with trucks, they are not interested in working with trucks and they are just not interested in the trade unless they have had exposure to it,” he says. “Many apprentices we get through here have got a truck background. We need to show them that you can have a great career as a technician that can lead to many other positions in the industry.”

Mark considers the truck industry to have a range of opportunities and appreciates the support of the PACCAR group and Hallam Truck Centre in providing him with the scenario of being able to experience the satisfaction of diagnosing, and subsequently rectifying, any issues which may arise in the complexities of modern heavy-duty trucks and he welcomes the responsibility of providing the ultimate solutions for customers’ vehicles, often after others have attempted to solve the issue.

“Being a dealer, we win all of the hard stuff which is good challenge for us,” Mark says. “A few other people might have had a go, but it ends up with us, so we’ve got to figure it out.” Technical knowledge, abilities and experience are important factors in the technicians’ role, and an inquiring attitude towards tricky problems is vital as well.

“I enjoy figuring out how to fix the hard stuff and it’s good when you finally figure out something no one else has been able to diagnose or repair,” says Mark.

“It’s obviously rewarding when you get to the bottom of it.”