BETTENDORF, Iowa (Dec. 29, 2003) — Declining demand has caused wheel-alignment and computer-balancing equipment manufacturer Bee Line Co. to scale back its training course offerings in 2004.
The Bettendorf-based company is offering 24 training courses in 2004, down from 45 in 2003. The firm combined its traditional wheel-alignment and computer-wheel-alignment courses for heavy-duty trucks and will continue to offer its truck frame course, according to Ron Pontsler, a customer service representative in Bee Line's training department.
The cutbacks are an attempt to increase class sizes as many courses in 2003 had only one or two students, Mr. Pontsler said. The company never canceled any classes this past year, but it decided a change was needed to its 2004 training schedule.
“Some smaller companies don't like the expense of sending their people off to class, pay for airfare and lose a week of production at the shop,” Mr. Pontsler told Tire Business.
Bee Line charges $500 per week for its courses and that doesn't include airfare and lodging, he said. Oftentimes, Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc. pay to send their dealers to Bee Line's training center, he added.
As of mid-December, Mr. Pontsler said, Bee Line had one person signed up for its January course. In the past two months, the company has had six or seven students in its class.
Tire repair materials manufacturer Tech International Inc. also has seen enrollment fall in its training courses, according to Bill Johnson, Tech worldwide director of training. Although Tech isn't cutting back courses, it was forced to cancel four classes in 2003 as more dealerships wanted on-site training, a situation Mr. Johnson called “unfortunate” for Tech.
“The problem with doing in-house training at the customer's location is you don't always get their undivided attention,” Mr. Johnson said. “You're usually restricted in how much time you can spend with a technician. In comparison, we get the guy in here, we've got their undivided attention for two or three days depending on what course we're teaching.”
Mr. Johnson said that usually the summer poses the most problems for attendance at Tech's training center at its Johnstown, Ohio, headquarters.
The courses include commercial tire dealer seminars, section repair and retread seminars, off-the-road tire repair seminars and Tire Industry Association (TIA)-certified commercial tire technician seminars. Five is the minimum number of participants in order to hold a Tech class, and four is the minimum for the TIA-certified course.
Tech's training programs cost $75—including room and board—though the company is considering the option of charging only $25 in 2004 to increase enrollment, Mr. Johnson said.
“I don't know if the fee scares them away or if it's just the travel,” Mr. Johnson said. “They're going to learn a heck of a lot more if they're here for three days.”
Meanwhile, TIA has not needed to cancel any training courses at its Louisville, Ky., tech center, according to Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of education and technical services. The association has seen a steady stream of eight to 10 attendees per class from 2002-2003 after a huge drop-off immediately following the 9-11 terrorist attacks, he said.
Mr. Rohlwing noted that TIA's truck tire training tour has been very successful and well attended, and he said he believes many dealers aren't as willing to pay for training courses outside their dealerships because of high employee turnover.
“I think it's the dealers reacting to the market and saying, 'If we had a lot of money, we'd send more people to training. But we don't, so you'll have to come to us,'” Mr. Rohlwing said.
TIA charges $495 for its three-day Commercial Tire Service Instructor Training and Certification classes and $695 for the four-day classes. The fees include meals.
Bee Line will continue to hold a training class even if only one person has paid for it and shows up, Mr. Pontsler said, adding that the company doesn't sell its training manuals or videos separate from the courses.
“We want hands-on experience here and that way, (attendees) get a certificate when they get through the course,” he said.