To help future diesel technicians prepare for the demands of modern truck maintenance, Pitt Ohio has gifted a 2018 Mack Pinnacle CXU daycab to Forbes Road Career and Technology Center (CTC) in the Pittsburgh suburb of Monroeville. The LTL carrier is based in Pittsburgh with terminals spanning from New Jersey to Chicago.
The six-year-old truck may not have all the industry’s latest technology and enhancements, but the powertrain—an MP7 engine coupled to an M-Drive transmission—is a monumental step up from the 1990s-era trucks the high school students were working with.
The antiquated equipment lacked two of the most critical areas of maintenance—electronic control and aftertreatment systems, which “didn’t set them up for success in today’s environment,” noted Taki Darakos, VP of vehicle maintenance & fleet services at Pitt Ohio.
“Many of the high school vo-tech programs have not had the resources over the last 30 years to keep them current,” he added. “Some are better than others, but most need help.”
This won’t solve the industrywide educational challenge of familiarizing students with modern systems, but the gifted Mack, valued at $30,000, will make a dent in Monroeville. The CTC draws from nine high schools in the region, where they spend half their school day in the classroom and half hands-on learning.
“This real-world exposure with our Mack tractor will not only enhance the students' theoretical knowledge but also prepare them for the challenges and rewards of a career in diesel mechanics,” Darakos said.
Along with acclimating themselves to modern heavy-duty truck systems, the students will get a taste of what it’s like to perform routine preventive maintenance and diagnose engine issues.
“This is a huge win for students to understand the latest technologies within the medium/heavy truck and equipment industry,” said Dominic Deluca, an instructor at Forbes Road CTC. “One must change with technology, and this will be a big change for both students and instructors.”
Pitt’s generosity is mutually beneficial, as the fleet has hired three technicians who went through the Forbes diesel training. They first went through Pitt’s cooperative program with CTC, where students do on-the-job training in select Pitt shops while attending school. This partnership with CTC began three years ago.
“We wish we had started it a long time ago,” Darakos noted.
Pitt has four other co-op programs in place with more on the way. In total, Pitt has hired five techs who went through the program.
Fittingly, the three from CTC, Owen Templer, Seth Spisak, and Tyler Ogilee, prepped the Pinnacle for delivery to their former school, performing mechanical and body repairs, cosmetic updates, and a final detailing.
Previously, Darakos told Fleet Maintenance the program has “also been great for our seasoned techs because there’s so much excitement when these young kids are showing energy and enthusiasm and wanting to grow and learn.”
As previously mentioned, this Mack tractor is a huge leap for the students. It’s also a step in the right direction to turning the tide against the “Silver Tsunami,” or the retirement of baby boomers in the workforce.
“We are a 45-year-old company and every month we have good people retiring,” Darakos said. “It’s critical to develop new talent and this is one of the ways that we are doing it.”
Being able to train enough new techs to replace exiting ones, and keep up with incrementally increasing demand, is a worry across not just trucking, but all of the vehicle repair sector. For example, a survey of 500 independent shops by automotive market research firm IMR indicated that finding qualified/responsible technicians was the second top concern, following the ability to find affordable parts.
“The need for highly trained and skilled diesel technicians is more critical than ever,” said Larry Maun, PITT OHIO’s Supervisor of Fleet Training & Development. “It is crucial to the success of PITT Ohio’s diesel mechanic shops to work with and develop the next generation of technicians and students from these types of programs who are motivated, hardworking, and want to learn the trade.”
Darakos warned that even with the urgency of the tech shortage, fleets should thoughtfully plan out school partnerships and co-ops before diving in.
“As much as we can help the students, if everything isn’t right they can be negatively impacted. They are really young and really impressionable,” he said. “But for us, it’s been great. Just make sure that once they graduate there is a plan to help them continue to grow and move forward.”