Basic Training

Every maintenance shop manager wants well-trained, productive and happy technicians. But that’s not going to be the result if the company’s training program is not built on a solid foundation from the start.

Properly designed training programs help maintenance and repair operations:

  • Reduce the time required by a technician to effect a repair.
  • Increase the accuracy of a technician’s work.
  • Reduce or eliminate comebacks.
  • Decrease the number of incorrect parts used in a repair.
  • Reduce technician turnover.
  • Improve shop safety and reduce workmen’s compensation claims.

To achieve these results, training programs must focus on the performance of the technician. This approach makes it necessary for the program designer to go beyond the idea of simply presenting information to technicians.

One major obstacle in preparing a successful training program is the confusion that exists between training and information sharing. Understanding this difference is a good first step in the process of preparing a program.

  • Performance-based training programs are designed to allow a person to learn a skill or improve a skill. It is mandatory that, upon completion of the training, the individual is able to perform a skill in a measurably improved manner. The technician must be faster, more productive, and more accurate. The key is an improvement in the technician’s performance.
  • Information sharing, i.e., videotape or lecture presentations, involves information or knowledge that is gained by listening to an individual present material. Upon receiving the information, the technician must internalize the message and decide how to use it, or how to turn it into or improve upon a skill, thereby applying the knowledge.

It is essential that training programs be written to attain a well-defined objective (i.e., measurable improvement in the technician’s performance). The maintenance shop manager must know what the training program needs to deliver. The manager must define what is expected from the program and how that improvement can be measured. Once the manager determines the desired outcome, then the objective becomes easy to write.

TMC’s S.5 Fleet Maintenance Management Study Group has developed a recommended practice for establishing training programs based on this philosophy. RP 516A, “Technician Training—A Model for Training Program Planners,” is specifically targeted to the type and nature of technician training critical to the mission of a fleet maintenance shop. That mission is to provide each technician with the knowledge and skills necessary to enable him/her to maintain and/or restore a motor vehicle to its design condition within service specifications at the lowest cost.


According to RP 516A, a program designer must incorporate each of the performance-based factors into the training program:

  1. Mission, Goals and Objectives—A fleet must establish its expectations for the training program, defined in terms of technician performance and productivity.
  2. Job Tasks—This includes the identification, listing, analysis, grouping and sequencing of the job tasks the technician is expected to perform to meet the specified goals and objectives.
  3. Need-To-Know Content—The program designer must focus on the “need-to-know” content in terms of requisite knowledge and skills required for the performance of the job tasks.
  4. Sequence—It is necessary to sequence knowledge and skill content into appropriate instructional and/or developmental order to ensure the highest level of success on the part of the technician trainee.
  5. Activities—The instructional design should encourage technician participation by including demonstration activities, worksheets, homework, training aid and/or on-vehicle testing as necessary to ensure that program goals and objectives are met.
  6. Post Training Evaluation—Upon completion of the program, management must evaluate the content of the program by reviewing the objectives and the outcome. This will enable the program user to determine whether the program outcome has satisfied the training objectives that were sought.
  7. Post Training Support—Training should not end with the completion of coursework. It is important to develop post-training support materials to act as ongoing reinforcement of the training.
  8. Business Results—The program should be evaluated to determine whether it had a favorable impact on the performance of the business. In general, a well-designed training program will increase technician productivity. If this increase is tracked properly, it will demonstrate to management that the resources expended on truck technician training contribute to reduced cost.


A fleet’s goal should be to have an ongoing, systematic program that furnishes the technician with training that delivers all the necessary technical information and hands-on skills needed to maintain and improve the competency of the technician during employment. The fundamental competence levels required of a service technician are:

1. Ability to diagnose the malfunction by:

  1. recognizing an abnormal condition (or verifying the customer complaint),
  2. relating symptoms to probable causes. This involves the use of the proper test equipment, accurately interpreting test results, and isolating the problem cause.

2. Ability to correct the malfunction by:

  1. selecting the proper service procedure and taking the action required—adjust, repair, replace—to preclude the recurrence of the problem (i.e., correct the problem),
  2. testing to specification to ensure the problem has been corrected (verify the repair).

These guidelines will be a big help for shop managers wishing to get the most out of their technicians while also improving technician morale and decreasing employee turnover.


The following materials/sources are also useful when developing a technician-training program:

Related TMC Recommended Practices

  • TMC RP 519, Recommendations for an Employee Performance Evaluation Program
  • TMC RP 528, Fleet Technician Certification: A Guideline for Implementing a Technician Certification Program

Other Training Standards and Recommended Practices

  • SAE J2017, “Developing Technician Training,” Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Warrendale, Pa., 1989, 1995
  • SAE J2018, “Assessing Technician Training,” Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Warrendale, Pa., 1989
  • National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), ASE Certification for Medium/Heavy Truck Technician Training Programs, Leesburg, Va., 2004
  • National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF), Standards and Guidelines for Certifying Provides of Continuing Automotive Service Education, Leesburg, Va., 2001

Other Related Resources

  • Automotive Training Managers Council, 101 Blue Seal Drive SE, Suite 101, Leesburg, VA, 20175
  • National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, 101 Blue Seal Drive SE, Suite 101, Leesburg, VA, 20175
  • Professional Technician Development Committee, Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of American Trucking Associations, Inc., 950 N. Glebe Road, Arlington, Va., 22203
  • SkillsUSA, P.O. Box 3000, Leesburg, Va., 20177-3000