The trucking and commercial truck tire industries are in a state of flux from a personnel standpoint because the largest generation ever born in North America is on its way to either retirement or to the great beyond.
A new generation, now 20-35 years old and known as Generation Yalso called the millenialsis taking the places of those baby boomers and older.
According to a study conducted jointly by the U.S. Departments of Labor, Education and Transportation, the transportation industry is projected to add 417,000 net jobs from 2012 to 2022 due to industry growth.
In 2014 about 53 percent of transportation workers were 45 years or older, so from 2012 to 2022 an additional 4.2 million transportation workers will need to be hired to fill vacancies created by separations.
Therefore, combining growth and separations, transportation industry employers will need to hire approximately 4.6 million workers. That's an equivalent of 1.2 times the current employment in the industry. Trucking has by far the largest number of projected job openings. Combining growth and separations, over 2 million jobs will need to be filled. Most of these jobs are for truck drivers and mechanics.
Naturally, trucking companies are very concerned about this forecast and already have begun to revise compensation programs, benefits packages and corporate cultures to attract and retain younger drivers and mechanics. Training programs also are being redesigned to ensure employees are as successful and productive as they can be.
Although tire dealers are not included in this transportation data, since commercial tire dealers service the trucking industry, it is reasonable to assume that you will have to grow and expand your work forces in order to handle your customers' growth. So you will undoubtedly be hiring some young millenials to fill spots vacated by your experienced and knowledgeable, retiring personnel as well as to expand your sales and service teams.
How do you provide them with the knowledge they need to be successful? If you plan on retiring in the next few years, what does your daughter, son or heir apparent need to know to keep your business afloat and growing?
Obviously different positions and responsibilities require different knowledge and skill sets. However, no matter what the position a person takes in the commercial tire industry, there is some basic tire knowledge that he or she must have about truck tires just to function in the job, and there are many sources of this information.
Whether the young person is hired as a technician, sales person or manager, he or she needs to get basic tire training, which is not available in any college or vocational school.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) provides the Basic and Certified Commercial Tire Service (CTS) programs designed for technicians that train them in tire safety, OSHA regulations, tire construction, nomenclature, inflation pressure, tread design and compounds for different applications. It also provides an education on wheel and rims including hub and stud-piloted wheel systems as well as demountable rims. It then covers everything from jacking and lifting a vehicle properly to mounting/demounting tire/wheel assemblies and installing them on a vehicle properly.
TIA's Certified Level program also covers tire assembly balance and runout, training on tire repair and emergency road service procedures and provides an understanding of the relationship between vehicle load and inflation pressure.
These are all basic things that everyone in the commercial tire industry should knowtechnicians, salespeople and management. Even though sales and management personnel may never have to change or repair a tire, knowing the proper way to do it is invaluable when they come upon a situation in which it is being done incorrectly, whether it's in your own company or in a fleet customer's.
Several tire companies also provide basic as well as advanced tire courses for tire dealer salespeople and managers. They usually include basic tire information, tire construction, scrap tire analysis, product line information and some tire maintenance. Some companies also have sales training courses that are offered to tire dealer sales personnel.
Depending on the company, the above listed information may not be as hands-on as you'd like. Some companies offer videos and online training while others have dedicated training centers in addition to online resources.
All sales personnel and managementand that means the younger generation as well as old handsshould have a good grasp of scrap tire analysis, tire maintenance and product performance so that when speaking to a fleet operator, walking the yard and inspecting the fleet's tires, they can recognize problems and offer suggestions for eliminating them.
Tire repair materials manufacturers also provide hands-on training in truck and OTR repairs. These are very intensive training programs during which students learn to make nail hole and section repairs in truck and also OTR tires. Not everybody needs to get this intensive training in repairing. But if a person is going to be repairing tires, managing people who are repairing tires or is responsible for training repair people, this intensive education is a must.
Retread systems developers also are a source of good training. Almost all of them offer technician training in their own training centers. Naturally students are trained to use the retreading equipment properly, make tire repairs and gain an understanding of the retread process and its required steps.
All retread technicians should be certified in the retread process your company uses and all retread shop managers should be knowledgeable in the operation of all stations and the use and maintenance of their equipment as well. Sales and management people should also be knowledgeable about retreading and be able to lead a retread plant tour and explain the process to your retread customers.
A program designed specifically for the next generation of tire dealer managers and owners is offered by Northwood University and its Center for Tire & Service Education. Northwood is a fully accredited, private, non-profit business university that specializes in managerial and entrepreneurial education. Its Leadership 21 Education Program is a two-week seminar held in March at the University's Midland, Mich., campus and in September at its West Palm Beach, Fla., campus. Participants must attend both sessions.
This course covers a range of business management and leadership topics including finance, accounting, business strategy, corporate vision, operations, leadership, industry trends, marketing and social media, team and corporate culture, critical thinking, the customer experience and problem resolution. It's a perfect continuing education program for developing future leaders in any tire dealer business.
Since it is designed especially for tire dealers, your heir to the throne can still benefit by learning how to address the specific issues with which tire dealers are challengedeven if he or she has a degree in business. And if it's been a few years since they graduated from college, a refresher course will also help them achieve success.
Years ago when I was in my 20s and 30s, there were very few training programs available for me to attend and learn about truck tires and their maintenance. Fortunately, since I worked for Roadway Express, which was based in Akron, the Rubber Capital of the world at that time, Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. and Goodyear were happy to take me under their wings and provide me with the knowledge that I needed.
So not only did I learn the tire manufacturing process in the plant and tire construction and basic tire information in conference rooms, I worked for weeks with a Firestone field service adjuster to learn scrap tire analysis while inspecting tires presented for warranty at various fleet accounts. I learned the retread process by working in a Bandag shop for many weeks and received an education on wheels, rims and their failure modes under the tutelage of Motor Wheel's chief field service engineer while he adjusted wheels for fleet customers.
I also learned garage and tire shop operations, how to drive trucks, and how to perform DOT inspections on tractors and trailers by working in Roadway garages all around the countryin addition to reinforcing my scrap tire analysis skills and tire maintenance knowledge.
I received the information I needed to be successful through mostly these hands-on experiences and by attending industry held seminars, exhibitions and conferences on all aspects of truck tires and wheels over the years.
Most companies spend 70 percent of their efforts on training during the first one to three years after hiring an employee. After that, their employees' development efforts drop drastically as most managers think these people don't need any more training and education.
However, products, processes and regulations change in the industry, and even tenured technicians, salespeople and managersyes, even youneed continuing education to enhance abilities, skills and knowledge. So plan on using those online course offerings and videos, attend tire industry trade shows and conferences and provide refresher courses and re-certifications for your technicians, salespeople and managers to keep them as knowledgeable, productive and successful as possible.
One last area that commercial truck salespeople and managers who work with fleet accounts need to understand is how a fleet operates and the constant battle that occurs between a company's operations and maintenance arms. Since they are outside the company/fleet account, most commercial tire dealers do not understand this dynamic, which has a considerable impact on tire maintenance and therefore tire performance.
These two areas in a trucking company have entirely opposite goals. Operations needs to run trucks to deliver freight and make the company money. Maintenance needs to stop trucks to maintain them before they break down and cost the company money. In the battle for equipment, operations usually wins.
This dynamic cannot be learned in a conference room, an online course, video or magazine article. It really has to be a hands-on experience. So if you can cajole a fleet into allowing one of your employees to work in the fleet's tire shop or just be on site to assist with tire maintenance for a few weeks, I would highly recommend itespecially if one of your goals is to have your company design a successful tire program for them.
The thing about hiring young peoplethose Generation Yersis that you have to understand how they think and what's important to them in order to provide an environment in which they can thrive and be successful.
Millennials tend to be extremely group-oriented, idealistic and socially conscious. They also possess a sense of entitlement and narcissism compared with preceding generations, but they are optimistic, engaged and team players. This generation prefers to communicate through email and text-messaging rather than face-to-face contact and prefers webinars and online technology to traditional lecture-based presentations. Keep this in mind as you select training programs for them and as you equip them for their jobs.
Millennials also are tech-savvy. They grew up with technology and rely on it to perform their jobs better. Armed with smartphones, tab-lets, laptops and other gadgets, they are plugged in 24 hours a day, seven days a week and are indeed the face of Facebook.
So be sure to replace their notebooks, paper and pens with tablets and start computerizing your whole operation if you haven't already.
Gen Ys have high expectations of their employers for advancement, salary and a coaching relationship with their manager. They look for more feedback, responsibility, involvement in decision making, and are not afraid to question authority.
This generation also may prefer to work in teams because they feel less individual pressure. They will switch jobs frequently, holding many more jobs than previous generations due to their great expectations.
Knowing the characteristics of this generation, it is best to rotate them from one type of job or location within your company to another to ensure they use their newly learned skills and knowledge and are constantly challenged. Ensure they have good managers who can coach them in their jobs and provide feedback.
Be sure to ask them for input in the decision-making process if it involves knowledge areas in which they have been trained. This also will reinforce their training and ensure that their new skills and knowledge are used.
Also, after your personnel return from training, ask them, What did you learn? What do I need to do to make you successful?
Their answers may surprise you.
The tire business and its workforce is indeed changing. Ensuring the next generation has the skills, knowledge and tools to keep your business growing and profitable is sure to make them and your company successful.