Spinning Our Wheels

Avatar photo

Pardon me for being impatient. But I expected more, wanted more, when delegates to the recent Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar were given the chance to discuss the event’s future. They didn’t.

During a two-hour panel session that formally asked a key question-“What role should the CFMS play in both truck maintenance and technician training in the future?”-five men presented their views. It was a lackluster discussion, with the most telling moment coming during the question-and-answer session. Someone asked whether the country’s other maintenance organizations had been invited to attend what is billed, correctly, as Canada’s premier maintenance conference. The reply was vague, but the message was clear: no formal invitations were sent. That’s indicative of a big problem.

I’ve said this before, and I’ll bore you by saying it again: this industry needs a national maintenance focus. It needs a truly Canadian organization with the size and substance required to create training programs, to publish training materials, to educate legislators and civil servants, and to influence the course of truck design and regulation, to name just a few useful pursuits. And if not a national organization, which seems to be a pipe dream in this absurdly Balkanized country, then at the very least there ought to be some basic acknowledgment that other maintenance people exist.

Am I stupid to think that the folks from Ontario might profit from a little exposure to hard-earned experience coming out of British Columbia or New Brunswick, and vice versa? Am I wrong in thinking that two heads are better than one? Isn’t there strength in numbers?

Go back to those noble pursuits I mentioned above and ask yourself who’s taking care of them now.

Who’s creating technician training programs? In fact, quite a few organizations are doing it, at least in Central and Western Canada. But I bet that in some cases they’re duplicating their efforts. I bet that, together, they could do more and better work for less money. One hopeful sign in recent years is the widespread use of the Ontario Trucking Association’s wheel-integrity course.

Shouldn’t there be more of that?

And when it comes to the industry’s dire need to focus on apprenticeship for technicians, no one group is suited up and ready to play. The effort is splintered at best, and largely in the hands of individuals, not organizations.

How about the utterly ridiculous federal refusal to accept a mechanic’s tools as a tax-deductible business expense? There’s a little noise made about it around budget time every second year or so, but certainly no concerted industry-wide effort to right a serious wrong. I have to ask, do we think so little of our mechanics that we can’t go to bat for them?

And who publishes maintenance-oriented training materials? Good question. Those that do exist come out of Ontario and Alberta, for the most part. Otherwise, some people rely on the manufacturers and suppliers, or on The Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations. Both good sources, but we need more.

Let’s move to our links with government. Who educates the politicians and civil servants on the technical side of trucking? With varying effectiveness, the provincial trucking associations do this, not the volunteer maintenance organizations. And at the federal level?

In fact, do you know who educates and lobbies the feds probably more often and more usefully than anyone? Al Tucker and the little-known Canadian Transportation Equipment Association, a body made up of many of the industry’s manufacturers and major suppliers. Note that there’s no fleet representation involved there.

One panelist at the CFMS navel-gazing session said some exceptionally sensible things about all of this. Glenn Tristram, president of the Automotive Transportation Service Superintendents Association Toronto chapter, called for a national truck and bus technician standard and a national certification program for fleet managers, as well as partnerships with other industry associations. He went so far as to say that the maintenance community must take a North American view of things, not a narrow and blinkered local one.

Bless his heart.

I’d go so far as to say that if we don’t adopt a very broad view, if we don’t work together, we’ll fall behind. Our trucking will cost more. We won’t attract the new people we need to survive. And governments will walk all over us.

Avatar photo

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.

Have your say

This is a moderated forum. Comments will no longer be published unless they are accompanied by a first and last name and a verifiable email address. (Today's Trucking will not publish or share the email address.) Profane language and content deemed to be libelous, racist, or threatening in nature will not be published under any circumstances.