By Kasia McBride, Marketing Manager, NGVi
NGVi recently hosted an educational session titled “Training: The Key to Safe, Reliable Vehicle Maintenance” at the North American NGV Conference & Expo in Kansas City. Panelists included corporate training representatives from three of NGVi’s customers: Holly Gerke of Penske Truck Leasing, Donald Coldwell of Volvo/Mack Trucks Academy and John Goralski of FedEx Freight. While each panelist shared their NGV training experiences and challenges, one central theme emerged: NGV technician training is a long-term strategy, not a one-time event.
As fleets and dealers integrate NGVs into their operation, they recognize that their technicians have never experienced NGVs and that training is essential. Because natural gas is an entirely different fuel (a high-pressure gas as opposed to a liquid) and requires specific safety procedures, technician training is not only a requirement—but a priority.
Panelist Holly Gerke of Penske Truck Leasing admitted that the process of procuring the right training seemed like a daunting task. She noted that it takes time and energy and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Holly conducted a Google search and quickly landed on NGVi’s website. Of course, not every training provider that appears in a Google search or an ad is truly qualified and experienced at NGV technician training, and additional criteria must be used to screen potential providers. Because the health and safety of employees and the general public are at stake, training managers like Holly realize it’s worth their time to make sure they select the best provider for the job.
How do companies like Penske, Volvo/Mack Trucks and FedEx Freight assess training providers? The criteria most frequently cited at the session and mutually emphasized by the panelists included good customer service, accreditation by a legitimate organization and the ability to meet their organizations’ training needs on a long-term basis.
Customer service plays an important role during the training procurement stage because it is the first contact and experience the organization seeking training has with the training company. While looking for the right provider, organizations have many questions. Sometimes finding the right questions to ask is difficult because natural gas is a new concept for them. One of the biggest challenges the session panelists shared was finding a training provider who could give them complete information and honest advice.
Companies often have different training requirements, are in various stages of deploying natural gas vehicles and/or have different types and number of technicians to train. Panelists stressed that it is crucial to find a training provider who will help assess their technician training and certification needs, explain options, help them determine what training is best for them and provide recommendations.
Another important factor cited by the panelists when choosing a training provider is the selection of a reputable provider. Training entities that have been through an accreditation process and an external review are more likely to guarantee their quality and their continuous quality improvement.
The most well-recognized accreditation program for training entities that provide continuing education to working automotive technicians is ASE’s Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE) Accreditation. Administered by the Automotive Training Managers Council (ATMC) and the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), this program is a rigorous accreditation process which reviews training organizations against industry established and endorsed standards for training techniques, student assessment methods, validity of the training material, instructor qualifications, and administrative processes. The session panelists shared that finding a training organization that was ASE CASE accredited was one of the most significant factors that influenced their decision because it guaranteed quality training for their technicians.
Another desired feature discussed at the session was that the training provider should have the ability to fulfill the organization’s long-term training needs. This means that the training provider must be able to not only help organizations determine the right training program for them, and provide continuous guidance, but be flexible enough to provide a wide range of solutions in the long run. All of this should fulfill the organization’s objectives.
Panelists also stressed that NGV training is an ongoing process that requires planning and strategy. An effective NGV training strategy has many aspects, including assigning specific classes to new employees, offering different levels of training for technicians who will be performing different skill levels and refresher courses for seasoned technicians who are renewing certifications.
One thing all panelists had in common is that each is adept at working with training providers to conduct a training needs analysis. Virtually every successful training strategy begins with a needs assessment. During the needs assessment, NGV fleets and dealers must work with their training provider to determine the appropriate level of training that will allow each employee in the operation who will be involved with NGVs to safely perform their jobs. This includes not only different levels of technicians, but also support staff, like service advisors and parts managers.
For example, every technician who works in a shop where natural gas vehicles are present, plus all support personnel require basic NGV safety training. Technicians who will be performing NHTSA required CNG fuel system inspections need both the basic safety training and CNG Fuel System Inspector Training. And, there may or may not be job overlap between CNG fuel system inspectors and the technicians who will be performing NGV maintenance and diagnostics and need that type of training. It may sound complex—but it can be really simple and can help you save money if your training provider is experienced in training needs assessment.
Truly successful fleet and dealer training managers, such as those sharing their experiences during the session, understand that a strategic training plan is key to their success. They consider NGV training to be a key component of their overall NGV deployment program, and they look for training providers who have excellent customer service, legitimate accreditation, and the ability to meet their NGV training needs on a long-term basis.