Because the USPS promotes from within, the NCED offers management training as well, and sometimes even the managers need basic training.
According to Chambers, some veteran vehicle maintenance managers and lead technicians are thrown by the technology on the new fleet vehicles, and need to go back to school to learn what their technicians are working on.
"You get a truck in that's all electronic, and they don't know what it is, or how to fix it, and they get a little defensive,"he says. "The problem is, we need to keep the whole fleet administration abreast of these changes.
"That's a problem, because the technicians get back to their shops and they'll tell the supervisor, 'It needs to have this done because of the new ERG,' and they don't have a clue what the technician's telling them,"he says. "I know some supervisors who would probably say, 'There's no electrically-controlled turbo!' Well, yeah, there is. And it can be a real difficulty for the mechanics."
The solution? "We've got to train everybody,"Chambers states.
Surprisingly, one of Karim's difficulties is developing new managers for the vehicle maintenance facilities. Many USPS vehicle maintenance managers are close to retirement age, and new recruits have been hard to find.
"Something we're facing across the board in the Postal Service is that a lot of technicians and lower level people aren't interested in moving into the management ranks,"she explains. "It takes a different kind of person to be a manager; some people don't have the skills, and some people don't want the responsibility.
"I'm working on a new management development program as we speak, to clone our best fleet managers and train replacements for the future,"she says.
As the Postal Service prepares to replace both its light delivery vehicles and its heavy trucks, Karim and her maintenance trainers will face many challenges. New courses will have to be developed for advanced body and engine controls on the diesel side, and OBD III is looming over the gasoline side.
But as long as training continues to be a top priority, and as long as technicians continue to flock to Oklahoma for training, it's a sure bet that nothing will keep the USPS fleet from its appointed rounds.
It's time for OEMs to start treating all customers with some consistency.
It's not just the technicians who have to prepare for a competition; imagine the pressure on the organizers!
I'm moving on from Fleet Maintenance