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Old and New School ways needed for tech recruiting, training

May 9, 2023
Mentorship programs pair highly skilled technicians with newcomers, but don't think these programs only benefit the mentee. In a good mentoring relationship, both parties benefit.

It’s no surprise to anyone in the trucking industry that not only do we have a driver shortage, but we also have a technician shortage. How bad is it? The 2022 Transportation Technician Supply & Demand Report from the TechForce Foundation indicates that the demand for new diesel technicians is very high, with 177,000 new technicians needed between 2022 and 2026. This is to meet new demand and to replace technicians that are retiring or otherwise leaving the field.

The shortage is bad enough because not having enough technicians makes it harder to get trucks repaired quickly. But what is even worse is that as technicians retire, we are losing a wealth of knowledge. The tips and best practices that these techs have learned over years on the shop floor are walking out the door right along with them.

The good news is you don't have to let that knowledge leave your shop. You can see that it gets passed along to the next generation of technicians by setting up a mentorship program. Mentorship programs pair highly skilled technicians with newcomers, but don't think these programs only benefit the mentee. In a good mentoring relationship, both parties benefit.

See also: Heavy-duty repair report shows shop revenue recovery, higher technician pay

What does that look like when you pair a seasoned tech with a newbie? New techs can learn as they go with a seasoned tech overseeing their work and also sharing with them some of the wisdom they have gained in their years of service. It can include sharing information on common additional repairs that are needed when a specific problem is diagnosed. It can impart instructions to the new tech to dig a little deeper to find the root cause of the problem and not settle for the easy solution.

Newer technicians are likely to be more digitally savvy, having grown up with technology. They can pass on ways of fully utilizing a technology to a more seasoned tech that might not be aware of the full functionality of a give technology tool.

There are also some new tools out there that may help to close the skills gap between seasoned techs and techs who have more recently graduated. Augmented reality and virtual reality tools are seeing some interest as training aids as they make it seem as if the technician is working on the actual vehicle.

See also: Hands-free wearable computer assists hands-on maintenance

Outfitting a tech in the bay with an AR headset coupled with a connection to a repair expert is likely to enhances the repair experience because charts, images, diagrams, etc. can be placed in technicians’ field of vision, allowing them to more clearly see what needs to be done.

This technology solutions are new to trucking, but I expect we will see interest in them developing over the coming years.

A big plus of investing in technology in the shop is that it is likely to make you a more attractive employer to younger workers. They not only grew up with technology, but they expect to use technology on the job.

It is likely going to take a combination of Old School sharing of information and New School deployment of technology to have competent and capable technicians in the future but also to make sure that the collective knowledge of your existing tech workforce does not walk out the door on the day they retire.

Old School-New School is a pretty good combination for success.

Gino Fontana, CTP, is COO and EVP at Transervice Logistics Inc. Prior to this, he was VP of operations at Berkeley Division and Puerto Rico. He has more than 35 years of experience in the transportation and logistics industry with both operational and sales experience.

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