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What to Consider When Coordinating OEM Training Opportunities for Your Shop Technicians

Utility vehicles continually evolve to better meet fleet needs. While these advancements may make life easier for the operator or fleet manager, oftentimes they result in greater complexity for technicians.

For this reason, OEMs offer training programs that help in-house shop technicians stay up to date on the latest models. Although OEMs host trainings, lining up opportunities takes some coordination on the fleet’s part. The following answers to OEM training FAQs can make that task go a little more smoothly.

How Do You Find OEM Training?
Fleets can seek OEM training from manufacturers, dealerships or at automotive service industry conferences.

Scott Behe, senior manager of training operations for Volvo Trucks North America (, recommended starting with the dealership, where technicians are trained to be the experts on the equipment sold there.

“Our dealer network is really strong,” he said. “They are great partners, and that is where the fleet team should start: by having a discussion with their dealer about getting OEM training that is sponsored by their dealer.”

Vito Cardone, senior transportation specialist for Con Edison in New York, said the utility’s fleet mechanics have received training from several OEMs, including Chrysler, GM, Toyota, Altec, Terex and Palfinger. He starts by working with the manufacturer’s sales and automotive engineering teams to identify training for specific models and equipment, like bucket trucks, digger derricks, cable trucks and IMT knuckle booms.

“The best way for fleet managers to identify the most relevant training is by having a relationship with [the manufacturer’s] automotive engineering team,” Cardone said. “You can work with a salesperson from the manufacturer to ask about training and the latest updates on their equipment and vehicles.”

Like Cardone, Matt Gilliland, director of operations support for Nebraska Public Power District, has worked directly with manufacturers to set up model- and system-specific training events. For construction equipment, NPPD has worked with Deere, Case, Caterpillar and Bobcat for technician training. NPPD also receives equipment training from crane and aerial manufacturers.

“Work with the sales side of your vendors and they can find and arrange training,” Gilliland suggested.

For chassis training, NPPD technicians have attended VISION Hi-Tech Training & Expo ( in Kansas City, Missouri, a conference held annually for technicians in the automotive service industry.

“It’s a great cross-cutting training that is focused not only on each manufacturer but is system specific,” Gilliland said.

How Do You Determine Which OEM Trainings You Need?
If you’re unsure of which specific OEM trainings fleet mechanics need, Gilliland recommended starting with those who will attend them: your technicians.

“The technicians know what is best; we allow them to shape the path,” he said. “They know what they need, what they have interest in, and where the best training and/or trainers are.”

Gilliland also recommended encouraging technician networking opportunities, as well as engaging with manufacturers, professional colleagues, vocational schools and local repair shops to find the best training.

“For example, attending the Upper Midwest Utility Fleet Council meeting a few years ago enlightened us, as sometimes manufacturers have courses specifically related to how the machines accomplish their intended work,” he said. “A basic ‘Operator 101’ type of class can really empower technicians.”

How Do You Build an OEM Training Program?
Cardone said relationships serve as the foundation for building a solid OEM training program.

“The best advice I can give when creating an OEM training is to speak to manufacturers, build a relationship with a subject matter expert at the manufacturer, and create a training course for the specific models that you own,” he said. “Take the time to get a course outline and determine what is appropriate for your organization.”

Cardone said fleets don’t have to accept an outline as written if it doesn’t meet their needs. To minimize disruptions to fleet operations, fleets can also negotiate the length of a course.

Gilliland recommended being proactive rather than reactive when building training programs. One way to do so is to write training requirements into purchase agreements.

“Pursue the training that best matches your footprint, both current and future,” he recommended. “It is best to build an annual training plan. Do not wait for the vendors or manufacturers to come to you; you must seek it out.”

Image courtesy of Volvo Tech Training
Image courtesy of Volvo Tech Training
Image courtesy of Volvo Tech Training
Image courtesy of Volvo Tech Training
Volvo Tech Training 2
Image courtesy of Volvo Tech Training

How Much Does OEM Training Cost? What is the ROI?
Behe said Volvo Trucks North America offers basic training videos at no cost, as well as advanced online learning and in-person training for a fee.

In Cardone’s experience, training costs can vary, but the investment is often worth it. “Fleet managers can justify the cost because, although it might be high initially, in the long term we are building qualified technicians, reducing vendor costs and reducing parts usage,” he said.

Behe agreed that fleets see a return on investment from OEM training. “You get a better, happier and more productive team delivering better results,” he said.

“Most importantly, however, is the improvement in safety – both for the tech and the operator,” Gilliland noted. “The only thing costlier than training is not training.”

About the Author: Shelley Mika is the owner of Mika Ink, an Omaha, Nebraska-based branding and marketing communications agency. She has been writing about the fleet industry since 2006.


Shelley Mika

About the Author: Shelley Mika is the CEO of Mika Ink, an Omaha, Nebraska-based communications, branding and content strategy firm. She has been writing about the fleet industry since 2006.