A common mission statement for our industry would probably be something like "We provide on-time, clean, safe and friendly service to our customers and the communities that we service." That simple statement is the reason for our existence. However, from a maintenance point of view, that means providing maximum equipment availability to meet the scheduled and unscheduled demands for service. Moreover, it also means that the maintenance of the equipment has to be as economical and efficient as possible in order to provide the maximum vehicle and component life.
In maintenance, we tend to measure our return on invested fare and tax dollars in costs per mile, mean miles between road calls, miles per gallon, etc. How do we measure our investment or value for the mechanics that we employ and train to perform the various maintenance functions? Generally speaking, each mechanic is both a cost and savings center.
As a rule, the key to an efficient and effective maintenance department, in part, is having qualified mechanics to perform the various maintenance tasks. This is not always easily accomplished. The external job market is unable to provide our industry with individuals that possess the required skills and competencies. However, there are a few human resource managers that are under the impression that training and maintenance departments should be able to develop and train any individual for a career as a transit mechanic.
For the most part, those of us in training know this is not true. Hence, our industry has adopted the "Grow Our Own" philosophy. "Grow Our Own" simply means shaping an individual to meet our expectations. Many transit properties have done a good job of training and qualifying the maintenance workforce to meet the maintenance demands of the transit business. Yet, how good is good when it comes down to measuring the skills and competencies of a transit mechanic? What is their value to cost ratio?
Nevertheless, technology is changing our industry at a tremendous rate. It is also changing and enhancing the skills and competencies of our transit mechanics. How do we measure as well as recognize their exceptional skills and competencies? How do we qualify and compare their skills in relation to other industries? As mentioned above, how do we substantiate the investment made in a career?
In short, one way to accomplish, substantiate or recognize the skills and competencies of our transit maintenance employees is to certify their skills and competencies. In doing so, certification becomes a credential that everyone seeks. For example, doctors, lawyers, paramedics and other occupations require a certification that provides credentials for an individual to perform in that certified occupation. It recognizes the knowledge, skills, competencies, abilities and initiative that an individual has to exhibit in order to earn the status and credential of the occupation. Why should our transit mechanics have anything less?
Transit moves the most people, next to the personal automobile. That is a big responsibility for our industry. Safety, dependability, security and comfort are essential to our customers.
In late October of 2003, a recommendation was forwarded to the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee to fund the TCRP Project E-6, Transit Bus Mechanics: Building for Success - The ASE Transit Bus Maintenance Certification Test Series. Project E-6 was a long time in coming. The first problem statement recognized the need for a national transit mechanics certification and was submitted in 1994.
The Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, commonly known as ASE, is an independent, non-profit organization that facilitates industry-related certification tests. ASE was first organized in the early 1970s as an unbiased organization that would recognize and certify automobile mechanics. This was done by the automotive industry as a way of policing their industry in lieu of government national mechanic certification. The government became involved as a result of public outcry due to automobile repairs being performed by incompetent individuals.