The COVID-19 pandemic impacted every aspect of life, and businesses had to pivot to adjust to the new reality. Even though trucking was considered an essential industry, there still were ramifications.
Trish Serratore, senior vice president of communications for the National Institute of Automotive Service Excellence, explains that ASE’s test partner had to close testing centers from the beginning of the pandemic until June 2020 – which meant technicians who needed to recertify were stuck. ASE stepped in and extended deadlines for recertification twice. The testing centers are now open, but demand is high, so Serratore encourages technicians to register early to ensure they get a spot.
Wanting to do more than just extend deadlines, ASE reached out to its partners to determine how to help technicians. The result was a technical webinar series beginning in March 2020 for instructors at community colleges and high schools, as well as for technicians.
“We have had a nice mix of truck webinars, collision webinars, and auto webinars,” Serratore explains. “The pre-recorded webinars are free of charge and last about one hour. We thought it was a nice little something to offer before getting back into full-blown, instructor-led training.” The webinars have covered topics such as aftertreatment, electrical systems and electronics, and safety.
ASE also launched a redesigned website earlier this year. Serratore says it is easier to navigate and features enhancements to the My ASE portal as well as “an Amazon-like shopping cart.”
The group is working on advanced driver assistance system testing and certification. It has created an ADAS composite vehicle that “brings together the schematics, topography and terminology but does not reference a particular manufacturer’s system.” This was done so the industry could have some level of confidence in the skill level of technicians working on ADAS.
“There are so many safety issues revolving around ADAS, we felt that a third-party independent credential would be helpful to the industry.”
Another way ASE is helping trucking, albeit in a roundabout way, is with a three-tiered military certification program for Army personnel working on wheeled vehicles. Not only will the certifications allow the technicians to be recognized within the Army, but it also gives them a credential that a civilian employer can use to better understand the technician’s skill level and how what he or she did in the Army translates into maintaining and repairing trucks.
What is ASE doing to prepare technicians for the trucks of the future?
“The ASE test normally lags current cutting-edge technology a little bit,” Serratore explains. “Our first foray was the advanced hybrid electric test, which is an advanced-level test simply because there are not enough people who are doing regular work on these new systems. We started at the top and will filter down tests for that technology as it becomes a little more mainstream.”
Before technicians get to that level, they have to get the training to enter the industry. The ASE Education Foundation is responsible for accrediting medium- and heavy-duty technology programs around the country. Currently there are about 250 such programs nationwide.
“The accreditation process defines tasks, equipment, the faculty — really everything — that a program needs in order to be able to graduate a fundamentally trained, ready-to-walk-into-the-industry individual,” Serratore explains.
“I encourage everyone to get involved in these schools,” she says. “These are the next-generation technicians that are being trained, and your involvement in these programs will give you first crack at them. If you are looking for trained, competent technicians, you should put a little effort into the schools.”