As someone who has spent the last 10 years educating commercial tire service technicians (tire guys), I've probably heard every excuse for why tire dealers can't train employees. Constant turnover, rising costs and smaller margins are just a fraction of the things they point to when trying to explain why their workforce is poorly trained. Sound familiar?
But most of them don't realize that when it comes to training employees who service truck tires and wheels, they don't really have a choice. According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulation 29 CFR 1910.177, anyone who mounts, demounts, inflates, deflates, installs, removes or handles truck tire and wheel assemblies must be trained to recognize the hazards related to these tasks. The key word is “anyone.”
Mechanics who remove inflated tires to work on the brakes or front-end components must also be trained. Drivers who are required to inflate their own tires must be trained. Warehouse personnel who might roll a spare inflated tire out to the tire technician must be trained. Every employee who touches an inflated truck tire and wheel assembly in any way must receive training in order to comply with OSHA regulations.
Fortunately, most fleets can accomplish this at little to no cost. Your tire and wheel suppliers can supply training videos, service manuals and other educational materials. In some cases, they may even send someone to your facility to conduct a tire safety class. Just make sure you know the minimum OSHA requirements so your documentation covers all the bases.
You can also purchase custom-designed training programs for fleets that require minimal effort and investment on the part of your maintenance department. If you are interested in the plug-and-play approach, shoot a quick email to [email protected] and ask for information on the Fleet Tire OSHA Compliance Training Program.
But don't stop with your employees when it comes to OSHA training regulations. It might be time to check up on the dealers that service your vehicles to see if their personnel are really qualified to do the job. The tire industry has a history of using on-the-job training that I usually refer to as the perpetuation of bad habits. If the trainer doesn't know that hub-piloted wheels require 30-weight oil on the threads and flange nuts, then all of your equipment with that wheel system will probably have improperly installed wheels.
Since you don't have time to quiz every technician who services your tires and wheels, there is something that you can do to protect yourself from unnecessary liability. Some fleets require all outside tire technicians to be certified by the Tire Industry Association before they can work on their vehicles. This guarantees that they have experience and training. If an accident does happen, it won't be caused by someone who was digging ditches last week. If they aren't certified, they should at least have training that meets the minimum OSHA requirements.
Your insurance company and legal representation will echo the importance of ensuring your vendors are using qualified personnel. While it's extremely difficult to prove that a technician installed a tire correctly, it's easy to prove that he was trained to do it properly. Just remember that tire dealers who are unable to produce any documentation of technician training will have no way of defending themselves in the event of an accident. And since you'll be sitting at the defendant's table with them, it definitely helps your case if their technicians are qualified professionals.