vocational education anymore,” he said. “People are coming out of high school wanting to be computer people. They don’t want to work with their hands.” Second, Hawkins continued, “You must

have technical qualifications now, because you’re working on a rolling computer.” Hawkins said First Group America

technicians are encouraged to pursue certification through ASE, a voluntary certification program where technicians can prove their abilities and increase their pay through testing. He said a Blue Shield certification is the highest certification a technician or a bus shop can receive, adding that 70 First Group locations across North America have the rating. Fayette County’s Davis agreed with

Hawkins’ assessment of high school graduates. “No one is coming out of high school saying I want to be a mechanic,” Davis said. “I graduated from high school, went to technical school and became a mechanic. A lot of my friends did the same thing, so they could work on their cars. Today, I don’t see a lot of young people working on their cars. It is a crisis. People are retiring and there’s no one to take their place.” Davis said in the 38 years he’s been in transportation, he’s seen at least 27 major changes to school buses, including the tilt hood, 100-gallon fuel tank, power steer- ing and electronic ignitions. Mooneyham, meanwhile, said training

must keep pace with technology. He said Cypress-Fairbanks technicians are trained in-house at the district’s main training facility, and they use vendor training. “If you don’t invest in training, you’re

really shooting yourself in the foot,” Mooneyham said. “The old days of all mechanical work on a school bus are gone. Now you must be able to hook-up a laptop. As we go forward, the technology will change, the equipment will change, and the shop environment has to change. Training must be a priority.” Transportation directors are recognizing

that bus garages must have improved employee space, such as break rooms, training facilities, and clean, comfortable

42 School Transportation News • FEBRUARY 2019

‘Tools’ Most Used by Fayette County Schools Technicians

• Laptops/Tablets • Wireless Bus Lifts • Jacks • A/C test machines • Multimeters • Boroscope • Electrical • Diagnostics/Relay Tools • Scan Tools

decided to upgrade its garages, is because they believe aesthetics for shop personnel are very important. “I’ve read studies that indicated when employees feel good about their work environment, production levels increase, because they feel the district is investing in them and that they matter,” Mooneyham said. The other factor is employee safety. The Texas climate can be very adverse in the summer, due to the extreme heat.”

The Future is Now Hawkins sees electric vehicles

work spaces. They say this is important, not only to make current employees feel good about themselves, but also to attract more potential technicians to an industry that is plagued by a shortage of qualified personnel. They fear it will only become more pronounced, as new technology advances the need for more training. “In this climate where we

have a shortage of technicians, you need a clean workplace,” Hawkins said. “You need to have shops that technicians want to come to, so build a place where they want to be. Some of our shops are air-conditioned and we have clean break rooms. It’s got to be a nice facility. If it’s a crappy facility, no one will want to be there.” Mooneyham said part of

the reason Cypress-Fairbanks

dominating the future. “We’re going electric, there’s no way around it,” Hawkins said. Electric buses are coming, so you must have enough power going to the facility to charge the buses.” He also cautioned that electric buses are high-voltage, high-amper- age vehicles that should be worked on by electricians. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could get an arc that will kill you dead on the spot,” Hawkins said. “So, I’m hiring electricians to work on that part of the vehicle. Over time, that will become the norm rather than the exception. Eventually technicians might be trained to work on the elec- trical part of the bus, but right now, I don’t want to take any chances.” Hawkins’ prediction is already

coming true in Northern California at Twin Rivers Unified School District. It took delivery of its first electric school bus in 2016. Today, out of a total of 120 buses, Twin Rivers now has a fleet of 16 electric buses, which makes it the largest electric fleet in the nation. And Ray Manalo, manager of vehicle maintenance, said they are just getting started. “Our goal is to be totally

alternative fuel within five years and to be all electric within 10 years,” Manalo said. “We may have to keep a few diesel buses to

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