Higher Education in Garbage Trucks

Many manufacturing companies provide training for their customers, but not many take training as far as Heil.

Last year, in fact, Heil began taking training all the way to its customers' truck yards, in the form of a mobile training center built into a semi-trailer.

The first of its kind in the waste industry, the Heil Mobile Training Center tailors classes to the needs of Heil customers, primarily those with maintenance responsibilities.

The 53-foot trailer, custom-built by Craftsmen Industries of St. Louis, travels the country providing mechanic and driver training.

In a customer's yard, the left sidewall of the trailer extends hydraulically and creates a 400-square-foot classroom for 12 people. A 30 kilowatt diesel generator powers all the comforts of school, including heating and air conditioning, and overhead lighting. Oak cabinets and trim, decorative wall coverings, hardwood floors, and an acoustically covered ceiling eliminate the feeling of working in a trailer. Classes include video demonstrations on a 36-inch video monitor and a pull-down projection screen.

The rear section of the trailer offers a conference room equipped with a refrigerator and small sink. A gas grill swings out from behind the tailgate, allowing students and instructors to relax over dinner after class.

Introduced in 1999, the mobile training center proved so popular that Heil added a second trailer last year.

According to Mark Keller, Heil's director of engineering, the mobile classrooms can be tailored to accommodate the use of specific trucks for specific customers.

The trailers complement the primary training facility located at the Fort Payne, Ala., manufacturing plant. Called the Joseph F. Heil Jr. Customer Education Center, the 8,100-square-foot facility provides two classrooms, a hydraulics lab, an electronics lab and a two-story double truck bay.

Today's hydraulic and electronic systems require a wealth of knowledge to sell, maintain, and operate, Keller says. Consequently, training courses offered on the road and in Fort Payne include reading schematic diagrams; principles of hydraulic mechanics; basics of programmable logic circuits and computer-controlled systems; and hands-on mechanics.

Continuing education credits can be earned through Heil training programs, accredited by Chattanooga State Technical College.

“We've always had a focus on training,” Keller says. “Generally, we would prefer that our customers come to Fort Payne for training. When that isn't possible, we now have the mobile classrooms, and we can go to where our customers are.”