Heavy-duty: Despite likely inbound recession, factors continue to dull sharp truck downturn
High on the value list of every good truck equipment manager are safety and efficiency. Fleets try to spec and operate their rolling equipment to be the safest and most fuel efficient possible, and they train their drivers to do the same. In like manner, safety and efficiency are important aspects of operations in well-run maintenance shops.
A vehicle lift is just one example of shop equipment that calls for technician training on an ongoing basis. Ken Atha, OSHA’s regional administrator in the West, says, “Workers in the automotive industry are exposed to crushing hazards from automotive lifts when servicing and repairing vehicles. These risks can be limited by properly maintaining automotive lifts and providing workers with effective training regarding the inspection and use of lifts.”
Recognizing the need for such training, the National Conference of State Fleet Administrators recently asked Steve Perlstein, president of Mohawk Lifts, to prepare and present a webinar on vehicle lift safety. In his presentation, Perlstein pointed out that OSHA requires vehicle lifts to undergo an inspection annually by an experienced lift inspector and that anyone using such equipment must receive training on an annual basis.
The Automotive Lift Institute (ALI) is the official source of information regarding the safe operation of lifts, as well as certification of lift inspectors. Its stated mission is to promote the safe design, construction, installation, inspection and use of automotive lifts. As Perlstein indicated, annual vehicle lift inspections conducted by a “qualified automotive lift inspector” are required by the ANSI National Standard. That means a visit to the ALI website, www.autolift.org, is beneficial for fleets.
“Proper vehicle lift certification, installation and inspection have come under increased scrutiny in recent years by OSHA and other local, state, provincial and federal health and safety officers,” says Bob O’Gorman, ALI president. “This has resulted in an increase in shops looking for qualified automotive lift inspectors.” Certified inspectors can be contacted through the ALI website. Visitors also can find training material for shop technicians through ALI.
Perlstein recommended that fleet managers show their staff a 20-min. video sponsored by ALI that demonstrates best practices related to vehicle lifts. He says, “If the shop foreman or fleet manager has had his staff view that video and records when his people took the test associated with it, he has fulfilled his OSHA training obligation for the year.”
Remember, with regard to management responsibilities relative to OSHA regulations, you won’t get a free pass because you don’t know about the regulations. It is management’s responsibility to know the regulations and to follow them.
In addition to the ALI resources, Perlstein says that all reputable lift manufacturers provide training on the proper use of their products on their websites—and certainly when new equipment is sold to and installed in a fleet’s shop. MohawkLifts.com, for example, has several videos that cover lift safety information, as well as information about other safety-related items available through the company. A Lift Safety Poster, in particular, should prove interesting to shop managers as it details safety instructions, as well as a place to record lift inspection dates and past technician training schedules.
Major component development
Our nation’s trucking industry is fortunate to have a very competitive supply base. As a result, OEMs are constantly introducing new product designs, most of which are in response to customer demand or designs mandated by government regulations. Consider, for example, all the new engine and transmission designs, as well as new emission control technologies that have been introduced during the last few years.
As with most things new, there are some good things and some not so good things that come along with such new designs. With new truck components, it’s new shop tools that bring with them technician training requirements. Phil Goodwin, a technical communications coordinator in Eaton’s training group, says, “Efficient operation on the job requires knowledge of specialized tools offered by component manufacturers.”
As do other suppliers, Eaton offers technicians a full range of training opportunities on what new tools are required to properly maintain its products and the use of those tools. The company utilizes online training programs, as well as classroom sessions, combined with hands-on training. The various programs are offered through its four regions and vary by location, but often are done through community colleges. Eaton also has its own online learning management system, through which dealerships and large fleets can register their technicians. This can be accessed at www.roadrangeracademy.com.
Rick Martin, senior manager for aftermarket training at Meritor, points out that most fleets no longer rebuild major components, opting instead to use rebuilt or remanufactured units. There are, however, still times that special tools are needed for repairs. Martin gives the example of a new seal kit for tandem axles.
“A few years ago, we came out with an upgraded seal assembly for the input of the rear carrier and output of the forward carrier,” he says. “Seals were a problem for a while because of torsional vibrations. The latest seal is working very well, but it requires special tools for installation. If you try to do the job without the tools, you will install the product incorrectly, and it will fail prematurely. Therefore, you just repaired something that’s going to be needing repair again, and it could be a major repair out on the road. Without the driver’s knowledge, it could leak to a point where it results in a failed carrier, which could run into the $6,000 to $8,000 range. The toolset would have been $300 or $400.”