The certification of specialized skill-sets acknowledges a truck technician's proficiency, and that can help add to a shop's bottom line.
Proper vehicle repair and service has always been important. Business conditions being what they are these days, it has taken on even greater importance for fleet operators. They want the job done right the first time. They don't want to be worried with accidents and downtime due technical malfunctions resulting from poor or shoddy work.
Today's competitive and challenging economy has also emphasized to vehicle maintenance and service shops that technicians are their most valuable asset. These organizations want to keep their technicians. They also want them continuously learning so as to stay current on new procedures and products and to become more productive and professional.
Certified technicians help a company in several ways, says Tony Molla of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). ASE certification is a valuable yardstick by which to measure the knowledge and skills of individual technicians. It is also a standard of achievement that demonstrates to a company's customers that its workforce has been recognized for their competency level and ability, and that raises the credibility of the business
A business that promotes and encourages technician certification becomes more attractive to prospective employees if it promotes and encourages technician certification, he adds.
An independent and non-profit organization, ASE was established in 1972 to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service through the voluntary testing and certification of technicians and other automotive service professionals.
ASE offers certification and testing for truck equipment technicians in three areas: E1 - Truck Equipment Installation and Repair (see Fleet Maintenance February 2009), E2 - Electrical and Electronic Installation and Repair and E3 - Auxiliary Power Systems Installation And Repair.
The E1 certification was introduced in 1999. The E2 and E3 followed the next year. In both cases, the new tests were introduced in the spring (May) ASE testing.
Technicians who pass these tests and fulfill the work experience requirement (two years of full-time, hands-on work experience) become certified as an ASE Truck Equipment Technician and receive the organization's Blue Seal of Excellence. Those who pass all three truck equipment tests become an ASE-Certified Master Truck Equipment Technician.
To remain certified, truck equipment technicians must be retested every five years, notes Molla. This requirement ensures that ASE-certified technicians are staying current with changes in vehicle technology.
ASE also offers certification in automobile, alternate fuels, medium/heavy truck, transit bus, school bus, collision repair/refinish, engine machinist, parts specialist and advanced level specialties.
The questions that appear on ASE truck equipment tests are written in test workshops and approved by a cross-section of service industry experts, called Subject Matter Experts (SME), that includes working truck equipment technicians, truck equipment distributors, National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) technical service/training representatives and representatives from truck equipment manufacturers, Molla explains. This procedure ensures that the tests are fair for all technicians without bias towards any specific truck, truck body or equipment manufacturer.
"The questions are designed to test the real-world skills that a technician needs to know in installing and servicing truck equipment," he continues, "rather than theoretical knowledge."
The scored portion of each test consists of 45 to 50 multiple-choice questions that address various content areas. Each test may contain up to 10 additional questions, included for statistical research purposes only, and do not affect test scores. The additional questions are the newest ones to come out of the test workshops and are there to be evaluated before being made an official part of the specific ASE Certification Test.
The E3 certification, Auxiliary Power Systems Installation And Repair, deals specifically with pneumatics and hydraulics in commercial truck applications. It focuses on three areas: hydraulic systems, which accounts for 67 percent of the test; mechanical systems, 29 percent of the test, and pneumatic systems, 24 percent. The hydraulic systems portion of the test covers pumps; filtration/reservoirs (tanks); hoses, fittings and connections; control valves; actuators, and general system operation.
For technicians to prepare for the E3 certification, as with all ASE certifications, the organization provides a study guide that contains a summary description of the content covered by the test, a Task List that describes the actual work performed to properly install, diagnose, service and repair auxiliary power systems and sample test questions. This gives technicians some insight into what they might be tested on, says Molla.
He advises those preparing for a test to carefully review the Task List, looking for anything that is unclear or uncertain. "This self-evaluation can help identify those areas where a technician might want to brush up on his knowledge."
There are also aftermarket study guides available that use the ASE Task Lists as their outline and offer training materials in each specific area. "However, the best preparation for an ASE Test is still shop experience," says Molla.
In early September, ASE launched online practice tests with questions of the same content and format as those used on ASE certification examinations. The intent is to allow technicians to take practice tests to help them prepare for the regular ASE certification tests, he explains. This affords them an opportunity to improve their skills in areas of weakness prior to taking the real tests.
The practice tests are half the length of the regular ASE tests and provide useful feedback to the user in the form of a performance report and explanations for correct and incorrect answers.
At this time, practice tests are currently only available for Automobile Technician Tests A1 through A8 and Parts Specialist test P2. However, Molla says there are plans to eventually roll out practice tests for truck equipment technicians as well, along with the entire ASE Truck Series.
Written ASE certification tests are conducted twice a year, in the spring and summer, at more than 750 locations nationwide. Additionally, selected tests are offered in a computer-based testing program at more than 200 sites over a five-week period each summer and winter
The next written test for ASE E3 certification is scheduled for May 6, 11, and 13, 2010. Registration deadline is March 31. Contact ASE for details.
ACT administers ASE tests in the field. Formerly American College Testing, ACT is a non-profit corporation engaged in test development and administration and in educational and vocational research.
There is no set passing grade for any ASE certification test, Molla says. After each test administration, a pass score study workshop is held where the passing score is set based on the national test results. This generally ensures the same degree of difficulty every time a person takes an ASE test.
Should a technician not successfully complete a truck equipment ASE test, the next available opportunity to re-take the test would be about six months later at the next test administration.