Closing the education gap

Feb. 3, 2017
Even among fleet technicians, proper safety practices are lacking

It’s been a while since I taught a class on truck tire and wheel service to fleet technicians. Most of my time is spent in the office or in meetings, so getting out in the field to teach is a welcome break from the normal grind.

Last summer, I met an executive with a state trucking association at a training program for nonprofits. Being the only two people in the room who represented “blue collar” industries, we naturally hit it off—and it eventually led to a pilot training program for members of the association.

With an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation that stipulates that every employee who services truck tire and wheel assemblies must be trained, it’s still surprising to me how many fleets don’t believe it applies to them. For the state trucking association, however, that was the first hurdle in getting people to attend. Fortunately, this particular group has a very active safety and maintenance council, so there were several members who jumped at the chance to provide some additional training for their technicians.

After 20-plus years in tire training and education, there are few surprises when I step into a classroom. I know what questions to expect and when to expect them. In this case, I have to admit that I was a little surprised at how many different approaches each fleet took to servicing its tires and wheels. Having spent so much time in the commercial dealer channel, most students have the same level of base knowledge, and training is more about explaining why certain procedures are important. With a better understanding of the reasoning behind the guidelines, technicians are typically more motivated to follow them because they know the consequences.

The technicians in this particular class regularly used at least three different wheel system lubricants on hub-pilot­ed wheels—but motor oil was not one of them. Most of the technicians in the room did not have an OSHA-compliant inflation device, and only a few regularly used jack stands.

It kind of reminded me of when I first started teaching decades ago; every student in the room had their own way of doing things. Commercial truck tire and wheel service is as standard as it gets, yet most of the companies represented did not follow (or even know) the recommended industry practices.

The class was comprised mainly of technicians, so I focused on tire safety. Reducing injuries in the workplace is your number one responsibility. When servicing tires, there are procedures that must be followed not only for your personal safety but for the safety of all others. I wanted the techs to have a better understanding of how easily they could be injured while servicing truck tires.

My goal was to  make sure the techs fully understood how they could become victims of an accident. Simple things like jack stands, restraining devices (safety cages), and lockout/tagout have a major impact on personal safety—and I hammered that home. While I hope they returned to work the next day with a renewed sense of how to protect themselves, only time will tell if the message was received.

On the other hand, there were a couple of safety directors and managers in the class as well, so it was important that they understood the OSHA compliance and liability aspects of the class. Based on the amount of notes taken and questions asked, it’s safe to say that some changes were implemented when they returned to the office.

The education gap between commercial tire dealers and fleets is still troubling at best. Truck tire and wheel service creates serious hazards for the employees who service the assemblies and the motorists who share the road with commercial vehicles. It is imperative that fleets performing any aspect of tire service understand all OSHA requirements and recommended industry practices—or they may end up in a courtroom. It all starts with training and for the fleets in that particular state, the workplaces and roads should be getting safer.  

About the Author

Kevin Rohlwing

Kevin Rohlwing is the SVP of training for the Tire Industry Association. He has more than 40 years of experience in the tire industry and has created programs to help train more than 180,000 technicians.

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