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Ten ways to tune-up your technicians

Aug. 10, 2022
Although it's more often technicians doing the tune-ups, they need as much attention as the vehicle assets themselves. To avoid tech burnout and increased downtime in your shop, here's a few tips to keep your techs at the top of their game.

Last month, I talked about the importance of maintaining your drivers. Once the blog published, it dawned on me that many of the recommendations for driver maintenance can apply to technicians as well, but with some differences.

Technicians control the health of your fleet and are therefore a very important component in fuel efficiency. If your tractors and trailers are not in top operating condition, you could be sacrificing MPG, ultimately driving up your fleet’s fuel expenses. But finding and keeping technicians has long been a struggle for fleets, so maintain the ones you have is of the utmost importance. Keep your technicians tuned-up with these tips.

1. Offer competitive wages. Technician wages must be competitive, or you could face a lot of turnover. Compensate your techs fairly, commensurate with their skills and experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2020 for diesel technicians was $50,200, and $47, 620 for automotive techs. Those wages have been driven up by demand

“The median income for diesel techs has been going up dramatically over the last few years,” said Gary Beeman, CEO at New Village Initiative, an auto and diesel training institute which opened this year in Blairsville, Pennsylvania. “It’s not uncommon to start at $65,000/year.”

2. Provide room for growth. Not only should wages grow with additional skills and experience, but your company should offer technicians some upward mobility. A good shop manager should have experience as a technician, since they will understand the problems and difficulties techs face. Promote from within whenever possible.

3. Establish incentive programs. Incentives are a great way to get techs excited about their jobs. Having something to strive for can help pull them out of their normal routine and keeps the job interesting. Try to keep incentive periods short and varied. For example, if you have been experiencing tire problems, offer an incentive for finding underinflated tires over a two-week period. Then switch it up for the next week to something like malfunctioning lighting. Be creative.

4. Encourage continuing education. Be sure to keep your techs up to date on service procedures. Coordinate with suppliers to hold workshops at your location or fund a training trip for technicians. Be sure to utilize online training opportunities; this is the best way to keep them current on the newest technology.

5. Create a mentoring program. Pair a seasoned technician with a new hire. The new tech will learn company policies and tricks of the trade from the seasoned tech, while the seasoned tech can learn about new technology and techniques from the new kid on the block.

6. Foster communication. Good communication is important in the shop. Make sure your drivers and techs feel comfortable talking with one another. It is important for drivers to alert technicians to any problems they may encounter with a vehicle, and for techs to take the drivers’ concerns seriously. Also, make sure to communicate efficiently with your techs. Be tactful if you need to offer criticism.

7. Maintain a healthy environment. No one wants to work in a nasty environment. Keep the shop area clean, climate controlled and well-ventilated. Do your best to ensure safety measures are met or exceeded. Create a pleasant and respectful shop atmosphere.

8. Respect abilities and preferences. Technicians have valuable skills and deserve respect. Make sure you treat them as you would any other professional. Learn what your techs prefer or enjoy, and try to cater to their wishes, if possible. Maybe a tech prefers to work on wheel alignments rather than cooling systems; try to avoid giving a tech a task that will cause tension or uncertainty.

9. Promote skills competitions. Encourage your techs to enter skills competitions. The fact that you asked them to show off their skills gives them a sense of pride in their work and could ignite a little spark in the shop too.

10. Hand out recognition and appreciation. You can never say “thank you” too many times. Make sure technicians understand their importance in your organization. Give a turkey on Thanksgiving, extra days off at the holidays or a monthly catered lunch. Personalized, hand-written thank you cards are unexpected and appreciated.

Technicians keep your fleet rolling. Make sure they are a respected part of your team.

Kim Ehrenhaft is design director at the North American Council for Freight Efficiency. In this role, she works on NACFE’s Confidence Reports and Guidance Reports and is responsible for its social media efforts. Ehrenhaft has been involved in the trucking industry since 1993 and has worked on various trucking industry related publications.        

Photo: John Hitch | Fleet Maintenance
Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems' headquarters in Avon, Ohio, includes working “air boards” to help techs visualize the systems and run troubleshooting exercises.
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