Back to Basics

Mandatory training program for technicians keeps fleet rolling.

As Refuse Collection Vehicles continue to grow in complexity and sophistication, the technicians who maintain them must upgrade their skills to keep the vehicles running properly. To reduce costs and prevent vehicle downtime while improving technicians' capabilities and morale, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Republic Services has invested in a new, ongoing technical training program.

The program was initiated in 2006. Leading the way was Republic's Central Region, which consists of 26 hauling companies, 19 landfills, multiple maintenance facilities, 22 maintenance managers and 170 to 190 technicians who maintain 1,100 collection vehicles and 200 pieces of heavy equipment.

The classes begin with the basics. “We have to understand the system we're working on, whether that's electrical, hydraulic, drive train, etc., in order to diagnose a problem correctly,” says Troy Hintze, Republic Services' Central Region maintenance manager. “When technicians fail to diagnose a problem right the first time, we create additional downtime and expenses that are not necessary.”

Each class is limited to 10 participants and is divided between classroom and hands-on instruction. The first course focuses on basic electrical training. Hintze explains that many long-time technicians learned to troubleshoot electrical systems using test lights and are unfamiliar with the multimeters that are preferred for diagnosing modern systems. Participants are supplied with new multimeters and are trained to use them effectively.

Hintze decided that the new courses should be conducted by professional trainers to ensure consistency. The basic electrical training courses are being taught by instructors from Bjorge & Associates, Inc., a custom automotive and diesel training provider.

Because the Central Region has undertaken a major effort to automate collection, another early class focused on basic maintenance for Heil DuraPack Python automated side loaders. Joel Barnes, technical training manager for Heil Environmental, conducted these classes at multiple locations throughout the region.

All of the basic classes are mandatory for every technician, both new hires and veterans, as well as the maintenance managers. Hintze has taken every course, as well.

“The training sessions work well for our more experienced mechanics, including journeymen technicians,” he says. “They have been making comments like: ‘Great class — when is the next one?’ and ‘I learned an easier and quicker way to diagnose.’”

Some of the technicians move on to higher level courses. Hintze expects to send 60 to 70 technicians to advanced factory training offered by Heil at its Technical Training Center next to its manufacturing facility in Fort Payne, Ala. Last year, all of the maintenance managers in the region attended an advanced scrap tire analysis class provided by Bandag Inc., at its Muscatine, Iowa, location.

Hintze has planned a five- to seven-year curriculum, estimating that it takes about a year to get every tech through a class. Next year, he plans to offer classes on preventive maintenance and foundation air brake systems.

“We're making an investment in our people,” Hintze says. “Training builds the morale of our team and helps keep the reliability of our fleet at a higher standard.”

Kristen Simpson is president of Simpson Communications in Shaker Heights, Ohio.