We’ve heard the expression, ‘He who has the drivers wins.’ I think it was originally attributed to Dan Einwechter but it has made the rounds since then and been said many times. The same holds true regarding technicians. If you’re a truck dealer, a fleet or an independent service shop, you better be developing a strategy to replace your aging technicians as they retire.
The numbers paint a scary picture, with an aging workforce that’s losing technicians more quickly than it’s replacing them. This subject was discussed in detail at the recent PIT Conference and Mark Belisle, president of Navistar Canada, shared some interesting insights on the problem.
Over to you, Mark:
“International has 143 locations across Canada. Across that dealer network we have 1,633 technicians. As of today – and I just did a spot poll with some of my major dealers – we’re about 200 technicians short today. So we would hire, at the 143 International dealers across Canada, 200 technicians tomorrow and put them to work. We have the shop bays and the capacity to do that and the work to do it.
“Why aren’t people joining? I believe we have a perception problem. Just like the driver perception problem, we have a technician perception problem within the Canadian marketplace – actually within North America.”
Mark went on to say dealers and fleets need to develop a long-term plan for dealing with the issue, including development of a pipeline.
“I think this is probably going to be the difference between those dealers and those fleets that continue to grow and really elevate their level of success and those that flounder and go away over time. You need a long-term plan for your technicians. What does that mean? It means you can’t just use ‘I’m going to steal people or I’m going to hope walk-ins come in.’ You’ve got to build a pipeline all the way, in my mind, from the schools in your local neighbourhoods, all the way through to getting apprentices, to getting those apprentices trained, to getting those apprentices up to speed, and then building a career path for them that gets them to where they want to go.
“It’s a three- to five-year vision in order to make that happen. You can’t just start that overnight. You’ve got to look five years down the road; how many technicians are going to retire out of my shops? How many am I just going to lose through pure attrition? Then you need to build a plan to backfill that up through there.
“I think those dealers and fleets that are going to be successful are going to have the nicest shops. They’re going to have an environment that people want to come to work in and they’re going to be happy to come there, whether it’s they have a gym in the back or they have a really clean place to work in, or they have a great lunch room. There’s a lot of different ways to attract people and to keep them there and really those that invest in having all those great workplace environments are going to be successful.”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies