Technicians and team members

Technicians and team members

As training methods have evolved, one common denominator still exists: sharing training/service practices with fleets' service facilities.

“New technologies bring little value if they are not used to their potential or understood,” said Jim Burg, president of James Burg Trucking Co., Warren, Mich. “Whenever our operation gets new technologies, we want the vendor to give us a demonstration at our facility. That maximizes our technicians’ time, and allows us to even use our own equipment as the (learning) ‘chalk board.’”

That basically sums up the fleet customer’s take on the importance of training. As training methods evolved from basic maintenance modules and troubleshooting manuals, VHS videotapes, CDs and DVDs, to the internet, one common denominator still exists—sharing training/service practices with the fleets’ service facilities.

One supplier that understands customer service and is an online training pioneer is Meritor. The company’s training efforts are lead by Rick Martin, an industry component veteran and passionate field-instructor to thousands of hard-working, focused technicians. His teaching beliefs—“it’s a team effort” and “get your fingernails dirty”—have rung true as his students (“graduates”) strive to execute the optimal service procedures and best practices for long vehicle life.

“We created the Meritor online website training system (drivetrain-braking), with well over 100 individual online courses, to provide the truck-tractor-trailer-bus industry with a comprehensive learning curriculum for fleets and dealers,” said Martin, noting that training has shifted from an “as-needed effort” to an integral part of the supplier’s offering.

The company’s online website (Learning Management System) is designed to work as a blended program that incorporates elements of self-guided online learning and instructor led classroom training to provide a cost-effective, hybrid learning experience that promotes knowledge and skill retention better than either type alone. Designed for tractors, trailers and bus-coach vehicles, the Meritor training curriculum consists of modules addressing foundation brakes, vehicle dynamics and control systems, rear drive axles and non-drive steer axles, and all trailer products.  

“Brakes and wheel-ends are not getting the attention they warrant,” Martin said. “Service violations or CSA incidents involve too many brakes. Brakes aren’t given the proper time by the shops’ technicians, and they’re not following through on the required inspection steps.”

The online site also offers Virtual Classroom Training. Live technical training, service updates and sales training are conducted on an “as-needed basis” via the web. Dealers and fleets can view the live presentation and submit questions, or if they miss the live presentation, the sessions are archived for later viewing.

Major national fleets often request customized programming of online courses, in which they will take 30-40 courses to create their own curriculum. The Meritor system will permit this customization and help administer specific courses and track technicians’ progress.

Another growing fleet, Oakley Transport, has moved to all in-house training. “I like small groups on-site for most training but the Volvo in-house on-line computer certified training is nice for our technicians in the tractor shop,” said Pete Nativo, director of maintenance.

“We find technician training to be very important,” said Aaron Tennant, president of Tennant Truck Lines, Colona, Ill. “The only shortcoming is the lack of training available to our techs. Many vendors talk about it, but it rarely occurs. All training should be conducted on-site, which provides a better training environment working on their own equipment.”

Meritor’s Martin has witnessed a dramatic progression in training and learned a few valuable lessons: most technicians are just awesome and really take pride in their (fleet’s) vehicles and their profession, and nothing can replace the hands-on method which allows them to touch, feel and “taste” the components. 

“We’ve progressed so far, but I’ll still encounter ambitious technicians who take the full manual and read it.  You know it’s all up to you and your state of mind,” he observed.

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