In the work-truck world, fleet managers have a lot to worry about. Not the least of which is a rapidly growing shortage of diversified mechanics. As fleet services manager for the Las Vegas Valley Water District, Doug Keene knows this only too well.

“Finding top-quality diversified technicians is our top challenge,” says Keene. “Our technicians must work on everything from pickups and dump trucks to backhoe loaders, trailers and generators. And all my mechanics must have a CDL.

Keene manages 19 technicians who are responsible for keeping 757 vehicles up and running. His job has been complicated by the phenomenal growth Las Vegas has undergone in the last decade. The public consumes about 600-million gal. of water a day, and the Water District's fleet plays an important role in making sure it's available. That's why Keene is so concerned with finding good technicians. “When I look at all the concerns we have as a fleet — environmental regulations, fuel prices, the cost of equipment — the number-one issue is still finding qualified technicians,” he says. “Everyone is looking for good technicians, and there are fewer of them to go around.”

But Keene doesn't think vehicle mechanics are a dying breed. Rather, he thinks they're a changing breed. They need new skills to maintain today's computerized equipment.

“They need to know the theories behind today's electronically controlled engines and emissions systems so they can troubleshoot and repair them. That takes a different set of skills than what was required in the past.”

In Keene's book, there's no such thing as too much training. His fleet's facility is one of only six in the state of Nevada that has been admitted to the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence's (ASE) Blue Seal of Excellence Recognition Program. To qualify, at least 75% of the facility's technicians must be ASE-certified and at least one technician must be certified in each area of service offered by the business.

Understanding what skills today's technicians need, as well as what new vehicle technology is coming down the road, means that Keene has to keep abreast of as many of those changes as he can.

“I need to know how new technology might impact our fleet, as well as what training and diagnostic equipment our technicians might need,” says Keene. He adds that getting together with his peers at industry meetings such as NTEA's annual Work Truck Show is a good way to accomplish that.

Work Truck Show 2002

Mark your calendars for March 5-8. The Work Truck Show 2002 will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL, in conjunction with the 38th Annual NTEA (National Truck Equipment Assn.) Convention. Immediately preceding the show, NTEA has scheduled a 2002 Economic Update from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon on March 5 that will offer attendees insight on the economic outlook for the work truck industry both from the supplier's and the user's side.

To register, call NTEA's fax-on-demand service at 800-700-2099 and request document #1110, or visit the company's web site at www.ntea.com. Those interested in attending the Economic Update can register by calling 800-441-NTEA or sending an e-mail request to dawn@ntea.com. The fee for this half-day conference is $75 for members, $125 for nonmembers.