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Maintenance Departments Feeling Pinch of Shrinking Budgets

Posted on April 26, 2011 by Alex Roman, Managing Editor

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Agencies polled for this year's survey varied in fleet size, with the largest maintaining 990 buses and smallest 72. Photo Courtesy: MVTA
Agencies polled for this year's survey varied in fleet size, with the largest maintaining 990 buses and smallest 72. Photo Courtesy: MVTA
What does your mechanic training program consist of, what methods are you using and what materials are covered? How do you handle retraining?

  • "We are the recipients of a D.O.L. training grant. This year will be a busy year for training. We provide hands-on as well as classroom instruction. We cover everything from hybrid propulsion systems to diesel engine rebuilds to electrical troubleshooting. We are implementing a six-month, ongoing rotation for training. This means that every mechanic should receive training and/or refresher courses every six months."
  • "We have a six-week course for new mechanics; we are hiring a lot of new mechanics as well as putting all our first line supervisors through the new mechanic training this year. We have computer-based subject matter that is used for refresher training. In addition, if a mechanic demonstrates a weakness in a specific area on the job, that mechanic is sent through the new mechanic training to address his specific weakness."
  • "We mandate that our contractor provide two maintenance trainers, our contract also requires 40 hours annually and ASE certifications. We utilize trainers using a training program developed in conjunction with our contractor, ASE training, manufacturer training by the bus manufacturer and major component training."
  • "We have two on staff trainers who manage the training program. They provide classroom training, computer based training and vendor training. They give retraining as needed. They also manage our mechanic apprentice program. Training includes both hands-on as well as book and theory."
  • "We have our own staff of trainers that provide all the training. Our program is accredited with the local community college and earns all of our employees their diesel mechanic certificate. Retraining is performed on an as-needed, as-requested basis."
  • "Training is limited to OEM, due to budget constraints."

What technologies, products or methods are working for you? Are you seeing a real return on investment either in lower cost or an improvement in performance that you can directly tie to a technology, product or method?

  • "Our continuing education program and laptop diagnostic crash carts are both showing a great return on investment. By keeping up with technology advancements in bus repair, we have really streamlined our garage. Some of the education programs carry a price tag, but it's money well spent because everyone in the maintenance department gets cross-trained, which, in turn, helps reduce diagnostics down time. The mechanics also follow a 'cause, complaint and correction' method, which allows them to analyze a problem as opposed to just replacing a part to see if it sticks."
  • "We've currently implemented a fuel additive to combat asphaltene contamination inherent with ULSD and biodiesel. We have seen our road calls, due to clogged fuel filters, go down and filters are appearing cleaner upon inspection. We also electrified the cooling systems on our newer buses that will be kept on property for a significant amount of time. We also continue to test out other products and concepts as they come out."
  • "We utilize system mock ups, such as CNG engines, ABS brake systems, air conditioning and I/O controls, to provide hands-on training without having to remove a vehicle from service. These systems definitely ensure that the quality of work on the floor improves."

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