Fleetowner 6365 Training 232

Maintenance Bay: Hands-on approach

May 6, 2016

Manager: Homer Hogg, technical development manager

Company: TravelCenters of America, operator of the TA and Petro chain of truck and travel stops

Operation: Some 3,000 technicians spread across 250 North American locations

PROBLEM:

Keeping maintenance technicians up to date on all the intricacies of today’s commercial trucks, trailers, and related components is a tough enough job. But when you’re talking about providing the latest know-how for most equipment makes and models to 3,000 technicians spread across 250 locations, that becomes as daunting a task as climbing Mount Everest without oxygen.

The trick is how to get that oxygen to the climbers in measured increments without interfering with their journey to the summit. At least that’s the way Homer Hogg looks at it.

“We operate 24/7, 365 days a year; we never close,” he says. “We offer a wide range of services on most trucks and trailers, on everything except internal work on engines, transmissions and rear-ends.”

TA’s technicians also perform warranty work for Daimler Trucks North America. “We’ve got a variety of diagnostic tools, codes, repair processes, and other information our technicians need to be constantly updated on,” Hogg points out.

Yet it’s not all book learning, he stresses, as a good bit of what technicians need to know must be transmitted in a hands-on fashion.

SOLUTION:

TA/Petro decided to establish three hands-on training centers at key points across the U.S. to serve its far-flung technician base: Phoenix, AZ; Nashville, TN; and Lodi, OH.  Hogg says those three centers can train 1,500 to 1,700 TA/Petro technicians per year, which does not include the continual web-based training they must complete.

“The point of this is to reduce errors so our technicians get the repair right the first time,” he explains.

Each of the three training centers comes with its own unique history.The Lodi, OH, location, for example, is actually a former truck dealership purchased by TA/Petro and converted into a training facility.

The Nashville training site, however, came about following the devastating floods of 2010. When TA/Petro started rebuilding that location, it used that “reconstruction opportunity” to add a dedicated one-bay training site. “We even have a full-scale truck located there to provide about as realistic a hands-on environment as you can get,” Hogg points out.

Finally, the Phoenix location is a UTI Technical Institute facility within which TA/Petro rents space for its own dedicated technician training program.

“We really need that physical hands-on environment for training because there are just some things you cannot simulate,” Hogg says. “Now, sure, we use simulations for air conditioning and electrical systems laid out on big boards, but you often need real trucks in order to experience every­thing that will need to be done to complete a particular repair. There is just no substitute for that.” 

About the Author

Sean Kilcarr | Editor in Chief

Sean reports and comments on trends affecting the many different strata of the trucking industry -- light and medium duty fleets up through over-the-road truckload, less-than-truckload, and private fleet operations Also be sure to visit Sean's blog Trucks at Work where he offers analysis on a variety of different topics inside the trucking industry.

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