Trucks: Pop Quiz: How To Peg a Productive Mechanic

Would you like to know how well your new mechanic will perform before he or she begins working on your fleet? Now, there is a way, ac-cording to at least one human re-sources company.

A diesel mechanic pre-employment test has been developed by Scheig Associates in Gig Harbor, Wash."It gives fleet managers a unique measuring tool in assessing not only a potential mechanic's ability to perform but also how productive that person is likely to be," said Rich Scheig, the company's president.

The test was developed in conjunction with some of the country's top mechanics, according to Scheig, and is broken into three parts: an experience and training section; a job behavior selection; and a "critical choice" exercise where candidates choose between potential responses to work situations often encountered by diesel mechanics.

Sample questions include:

* You see a notice posted on the bulletin board describing a new method for doing tune-up settings. Your way seems faster and better. Which one of the following is the best response?

* Tell your supervisor the new way is time consuming and ignore it.

* Try the new way but tell the supervisor about your way.

* Do it your way and keep it to yourself.

* Tell other mechanics about your way and to disregard the new way.

* You approach a parts counter with a component you have removed from a vehicle. You ask for a replacement. The parts staff, however, doesn't recognize the part. Which of the following is the best response?

* Leave the part at the counter and let them figure it out.

* Leave and come back later to see a different parts person.

* Ask the staff for a parts book and locate its number.

* Go to your supervisor and ask him or her to solve the problem.

* You're working on a transmission with an intermittent, hard shift problem. It still performs decently and there is no noticeable material buildup in the pan. Your supervisor, however, said it's old enough to justify rebuilding. Which of the following is the best response?

* Remove the transmission and take it to the parts department for replacement.

* Attempt to correct the hard shifting problem.

* Change the fluid and filter, and clean and adjust the modulator.

* Evaluate replacement availability before beginning work.

* You see a fellow mechanic trying to explain a new procedure to another technician. The other mechanic is growing angry. You have always liked the angry mechanic. Which of the following is the best response?

* Talk to the angry mechanic about remaining open minded.

* Report the situation to your supervisor.

* Convince both mechanics to agree to disagree and then shake hands.

* Let the two mechanics work it out themselves.

* You are working on a vehicle that won't build air at first. After running awhile, it builds air normally. Which of the following is the best approach?

* Check the air dryer for leaking seals.

* Check air governor for a malfunction.

* Check air suspension system for air leaks.

* Check the windshield wipers for air leaks.

* You are working on an electrical circuit that operates two or more systems simultaneously. Only one system is not working. Which of the following is the best approach?

* Replace all the system relays to determine if one is defective.

* Use the electrical schematic to find the problem.

* Remove the defective circuit and replace it.

* Use a jumper wire to supply current to the defective system to correct the problem.

In addition to identifying top mechanics, the test reportedly de-termines the mechanics' skill levels in more than 10 areas ranging from transmission diagnostics to me-chanical sub-assemblies. If the applicant is hired, supervisors can review this section and establish training programs, if need be, to address any areas where little ex-perience is indicated, according to Scheig.

A Midwest Freightliner dealer recently began giving the test to job candidates after testing his current employees. The manager reportedly found that it was 90 percent accurate in "pegging" his good mechanics.

The people who scored well on the test maintained a productivity level of 91 percent and averaged just $39 in re-work per month. The mechanics who scored below the suggested cut-line, on the other hand, had an 80 percent productivity rate and approximately $160 in monthly re-work, according to Scheig.

The benefits of developing such a test are clear - fleet managers will be able to identify and hire better mechanics using a solid skill analysis. As a result, they have a better chance in assembling an effective team.