The switch to CNG required changes in the maintenance procedures. “We had to set up procedures that took into account the high pressure,” explains Anderson. “There was a lot of training involved. We had training from the gas company, the engine company — we had people coming in all the time.
“You have to be real careful with high pressure,” he stresses. “We’ve always had to deal with those issues and making sure people understand before you take anything loose, you have to verify that there’s no pressure on the system.”
He also shares how they started looking for maintenance people with more automotive training as opposed to large diesel training. As he explains, “The automotive folks were getting all the training, the electronics training, the diagnostics with computers. The diesel guys were still just big nuts and bolts.
“We decided we can teach them that part.” He continues, “We’ll teach them the mechanical part, they know how to diagnose.” As he explains, they all learned a lot to develop a top-notch training department.
Thompson agrees that they had to go from thinking mechanically to thinking electronically as they had to learn how to use the computers to diagnose the equipment properly. He stresses that when working with a CNG vehicle, you have to work with it electronically first. “You have to go through the computer system and be able to diagnose it. It could be a simple sensor that has a broken wire and nine times out of 10 you won’t find that just by looking at it.”
And the tune-ups on a CNG engine are more critical, he says. “You start out with the engine cold and then at the very end, they end it in hot so you stay in line with the tune-up sheet.” He continues, “You’re checking everything from pressures at certain points to where you’re checking spark plugs. If you get out of line, decide you’re going to skip around, when you get to the end, nine times out of 10 if you have not followed the code, you will be spending a lot of hours trying to get the parameters.
“If someone just decides, OK, that’s close enough, well that could end up being a catastrophic failure a couple of months down the road.” He states, “The engine will actually melt down internally and of course now you’ve got to replace the whole engine.”
Anderson stresses, “Ed and I, we got to start in at the ground level, we took our lumps along the way.” He continues, “We learned a lot of things the hard way, but in today’s world, you don’t have to do that anymore. There are people out there that will come in and build this stuff for you, train you, maintain it for you.” He maintains, “They’ll do all the stuff that we had to learn the hard way so it takes away a lot of the excuses for not doing it.”
Ron Anderson is the director of maintenance, Edward Thompson is a maintenance analyst, Robert Harmon is chief financial officer, and Joan Hunter is the communications manager at The T.