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From UTI Grad to Monster Jam Tech to Professional Mega Truck Driver

Jun 2, 2021 ·

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For UTI grad Tanner Swinhart, racing is more than just a passion. It’s a way of life. He grew up going to Monster Jam and remembers being in awe of the world-class drivers tearing up the track with speed and skill.

He didn’t know it at the time, but these shows were a glimpse into his future. He went on to become not only a Monster Jam technician, but the driver of the award-winning Tannerite Pro Mega Truck — a truck he built himself!

Keep reading to learn all about Tanner’s story and how he went from Monster Jam spectator to technician and professional mega truck driver.

Where It All Started

Tanner first heard about Universal Technical Institute (UTI) when an Admissions Representative came to visit his high school auto shop class. He graduated from high school in 2008, which was right around the time his mom pushed him to apply for the $20,000 Grave Digger Scholarship through UTI.*

Shortly after he submitted his application, Tanner received the call that changed everything. He won the scholarship! He was flown out to watch the world finals in Las Vegas, and shortly afterward he made the drive from Washington to California, where he completed the Diesel Technology program at UTI Sacramento.

Being in Sacramento was the farthest Tanner had been from home, but he quickly settled in. “My experience was awesome,” he shares. He dove into his training and enjoyed all the classroom and hands-on components.

According to Tanner, his UTI education laid the foundation for his career. In fact, he still has all his books and notes and looks at them whenever he needs a refresher!

Breaking Into the Monster Truck Industry

Tanner’s hard work at UTI quickly caught the eye of Monster Jam. Before he even graduated, Monster Jam offered Tanner a job as a technician and flew him to North Carolina to work in the shop of Dennis Anderson — the creator, team owner and former driver of the Grave Digger monster truck.

As a technician, Tanner’s day-to-day involved washing tires, loading trailers and stepping in to do anything that was needed by the crew chiefs. He didn’t do this for long, though — after three short months, he was promoted to a crew chief position.

During his first year on the road as crew chief, it was just Tanner and one other person responsible for his truck, which pushed Tanner to learn a lot in a short period of time. He worked as crew chief for driver Lee O’Donnell for five years and won plenty of trophies along the way.

While becoming crew chief was a major accomplishment, Tanner didn’t stop there. He was so good at what he did, Monster Jam asked him to move to Florida to work as a shop foreman with more than 65 people working under him. After two years in that position, Tanner was promoted to fabrication manager, where he oversaw the building of all the chassis and parts for the Monster Jam trucks.

As he moved through the ranks, Tanner saw every challenge as an opportunity to grow. “I was always striving for more and wanted to learn everything I could,” he shares.

Not only did Tanner grow, he helped bring along others around him. He enjoys training others and passing on his knowledge to those who are just getting started. He’s taught classes with anywhere from 15 to 20 technicians at a time, teaching them the fundamentals so they too can follow their dreams of working in the industry.

Today, Tanner works full time for a custom fabrication company and does his own custom fabrication on the side. On top of it all, he’s a professional mega truck driver!

Turning His Dream Into a Reality

Growing up around monster trucks, Tanner always had an interest in becoming a driver. Being known and having fans cheering you on from the stands is something many people dream about, but few achieve.

Tanner knew he wanted to become a driver, but he didn’t stop there. He decided to put all his knowledge and hands-on skills to work and build his very own truck!

Dennis Anderson was the one who got Tanner into the world of building. The process took about four years because he wanted to ensure he did everything right the first time.

After years of building, perfecting and testing, Tanner built what’s now known as the Tannerite Pro Mega Truck — which is his proudest accomplishment to date.

“I pride myself on building everything on this truck and putting my heart and soul into it,” Tanner shares. Only a handful of people can say they’ve built their own truck and do all the maintenance and repair themselves, and Tanner’s one of them!

According to Tanner, the rush he gets when driving his truck is unmatched. He says even the thrill he experienced while skydiving doesn’t compare with the rush he feels when he’s in his truck. 

To no surprise, Tanner has had incredible success in his driving career. He’s traveled around the country competing, and with every win he’s gained more popularity. He’s even been featured on the Discovery Channel’s hit TV series Dirty Mudder Truckers!

Tanner was recently invited to Trucks Gone Wild’s Kings of Freestyle event. Only nine drivers were invited to compete, and they all agreed they would vote for each other. Tanner received eight unanimous votes and walked away as the champion. The very next week, he took second place at a race at Hog Waller Mud Park in Florida.

Balancing a full-time job, side work and a busy racing schedule might seem impossible, but Tanner makes it work. He’s living his dream and is making the most of every opportunity that comes his way.

“As long as it goes fast and makes power, I want to be a part of it,” he shares.

Tanner currently does at least one race every month and is working toward getting his name out there even more. UTI is his biggest sponsor, and many others have also hopped on board.

Tanner’s Advice

Tanner is young, but he has a wealth of knowledge about this industry and what it takes to succeed. Some opportunities come by luck, but according to him the best way to set yourself up for success is to put your head down and work hard.

“Follow your dreams and don’t ever give up. If you want something bad enough, you can make it happen,” he shares.

“No matter what you do in life, you always have a 50/50 chance of it being a yes or no answer, so make sure to ask that question,” he continues. “If the answer is no, then always ask if there was a possibility of it being a yes, what you can do to get to that point.”

In addition to learning the right skills, Tanner shares that it’s important to have a good attitude and work ethic. He says you can be taught many things, but being professional and respectful in all of your interactions with people is what will take you far.

Goals for the Future

Tanner has already achieved major milestones in his career, but he’s just getting started. In addition to racing, he would love to one day start a shop of his own. With his drive, dedication and talent, he’s well on his way to making this dream a reality.

Special thanks to Tanner for taking the time to share his story with us! To keep up with his latest adventures, be sure to follow him on Facebook and Instagram.

Are you Interested in how UTI can get you on track to a career in less than a year?7 Request information to get in touch with an Admissions Representative today.

*The Grave Digger Scholarship is no longer available, but check out our scholarships & grants page to learn about the variety of other scholarships UTI offers.10

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7) Some programs may require longer than one year to complete.

10) Financial aid, scholarships and grants are available to those who qualify. Awards vary due to specific conditions, criteria and state.

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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