The focus on the technician shortage is usually about the skillsets needed to work with today’s technology, but that doesn’t mean techs don’t have to know how to maintain yesterday’s trucks.
Just last week, I posted a blog, “New Technology Means New Challenges for Technicians,” which addressed the new skillsets required for today’s truck technology. One week later, I see this article in FleetOwner, “Haulers forced to get creative to fill empty jobs,” which covers a different, yet just as important issue, when it comes to the technician shortage.
The FleetOwner article specifically notes how this shortage is affecting the waste and recycling industry. The author points to Houston, stating that the “city’s fleet management department has been forced to pull nearly three dozen collection trucks off the road due to maintenance problems. Many of the fleet’s aging trucks – some 15 years old – are in need of repairs, but there aren’t enough technicians on hand to fix them.”
That made me think that, although it is vital that technicians, both incoming and those who have been on the job for years, be trained on the latest technology tools, we also need to remember that not every fleet, private or municipal, is able to afford the newest trucks. Many organizations are still operating older vehicles and newer technicians still have to be aware of the “nuts and bolts” when it comes to preventive maintenance and repair.
There is no question that the industry has changed. As the article notes, “Technology has evolved to the point where the most important tool in a shop today is a laptop. Twenty or so years ago, haulers could hire self-taught mechanics who could come in and turn a wrench, but those days are coming to an end.” We have to remember, however, that those days are not entirely at an end … yet, so younger technicians have to be trained on the basics of vehicle maintenance and repair.
Obviously, the shortage affects all fleets in all industries. For many, including those of us at NationaLease, the answer may well lie in working with technical institutions to promote the career of diesel technician as not only viable but preferred. In 2014, NationaLease formed a strategic partnership with the Universal Technical Institute (UTI), which has eleven campuses across the United States. We have continued to work closely with them to equip students with the skills needed to enter the workforce, ready to step into the job of technician, whether the vehicles are equipped with the latest technology or still are “old school.”
Education and promotion will play a consistently more important role in finding the most qualified applicants, but we can never forget to make sure those candidates are qualified to work on vehicles of any age.