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Techs need increased education, experience with electrical components

A new electric skills assessment given to technicians shows those within the industry need increased training on electrical components.

A new electric skills assessment given to technicians shows those within the industry need increased training on electrical components. “There is some work to be done in the area of electrical skills proficiency, even among master technicians,” said Robert Braswell, executive director of American Trucking Association’s Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC).

TMC administered the test. “We think an 85 percent grade on that test indicates you have a good command of the subject matter, but the average was somewhere in the 60 percent range,” Braswell said. “It is a little disconcerting that people didn’t do as well as we’d like on that.”

Jack Legler, technical director for TMC, said the majority of new features on heavy-duty trucks, such as safety systems, sensors and telematics devices, require a tremendous amount of data and technology that needs to be interfaced together. “One of the challenges for the technicians is that all of this is electrically driven. Therefore, you have to keep your game up to speed with the pace of technological change that is going to be happening.”

The skills assessment test included four sections: fundamental knowledge, application knowledge, advanced knowledge and databus knowledge. While the overall score for techs was 64 percent, the average score in the fundamental section was 84 percent; applied knowledge came in at 75 percent; advanced knowledge was 57 percent; data bus came in at 54 percent. Legler said the results show there are opportunities to train, reinforce and develop electrical skills among techs. Winston Minchew, training manager for Old Dominion Freight Line, added that he doesn’t think technicians will ever get enough electrical training.

“Electrical is critical to what we’re doing today. Every component has multiple sensors,” said Glen McDonald, director of maintenance at Ozark Motor Lines. “On one hand, the truck is smarter and it is helping diagnose it, but the tech still has to understand how everything works and follow the diagnostics correctly.”

During TMC’s SuperTech, an annual skills competition which brings together the best truck service and repair technicians from across the country to test their knowledge and abilities, Mark McLean, Jr., a technician with FedEx and a past SuperTech champion, co-chaired the electrical circuitry station. “Everything is electronic now with smart modules, smart circuits. With everything shifting to that, there needs to be an emphasis on electricity.”

When McLean talks at tech schools, he said he tells students the Number 1 thing they can do is focus on electrical. "If you understand electrical, you can be a very valuable asset. That is where everything is going,” he said.

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