No matter how well-made trucks are, they are going to break down occasionally, and they will always require maintenance on a regular basis. Enter the need for finding qualified technicians and then retaining them.
Here are three initiatives that are addressing the issue:
Be Pro, Be Proud
The Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and the Associated Industries of Arkansas have developed a mobile workstation called Be Pro, Be Proud, that will travel across the state to introduce students to the opportunities available in trucking and other technical professions.
Housed in a trailer are a variety of hands-on displays — simulators and digital content — where students can explore the skills needed for 12 technical careers, including truck technician and driver.
The initiative will use various tools, including social media channels, with the message delivered “with a look and feel students can relate to,” explained Randy Zook, president and CEO of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce.
Peterbilt Technician Institute
Peterbilt recently opened a third location of its Peterbilt Technician Institute, in Exton, Pa. The program is open to students who have completed a diesel program or an automotive/diesel program and want additional training. The PTI program lasts for 12 weeks — three of which are spent on engines. The remaining nine weeks focus on other areas of Peterbilt trucks. Students are sponsored by Peterbilt dealers who cover tuition costs.
According to Brian Brooks, director of credit and finance for Peterbilt, prospective students are carefully screened and have to meet minimum grade point average and attendance rates. “Everyone that has expressed an interest is interviewed so we can gauge their passion for the industry, and to see if they are a good fit,” he says.
Once a student completes the program, he or she is placed at the sponsoring Peterbilt dealership. “We have a number of dealers who have told me they are not placing ads in the paper anymore for technicians and are solely going through the PTI program.”
Black Rock Truck Group pays student loans
Black Rock Truck Group decided to address the issue of aging technicians by paying student loans for qualified technicians as long as they remain at the dealership.
Once they complete the dealership’s 90-day probationary period, technicians are eligible for the loan payment program if they have at least a 90% efficiency rating, no unauthorized absences and no disciplinary issues. Participants are not required to commit to staying at the dealership for a particular time. “It is our philosophy that we need to recruit and retain the best people. If we can’t retain them, then shame on us,” McConnell says.
The dealership also offers a deferred compensation agreement “to lock up some young techs and other service positions.” In order to retain “the services of top talent,” the company created a special retirement fund totally funded by the dealership. While DCAs have long been used to tie key white-collar employees to a business (golden handcuffs), they are not often used for more technical types of positions. “We looked at DCAs and thought ‘why the heck wouldn’t this work for technicians?’”
Until there are self-repairing trucks, there will be a need for technicians. Perhaps one of these solutions will spark an idea for what you need to do to get — and keep — qualified techs in your service bays.