Should You Trust Your Child’s Bus?
Just because someone is a doctor, that doesn’t mean they’re a good doctor. Likewise, not all mechanics are good mechanics. This is how Mike Sullivan, Tech-in-Charge, explains the value of ASE Certification to his shop crew at First Student’s Marlborough, MA location.
While school bus driver safety is certainly an important focus, how much do parents and school districts pay attention to what happens underneath the bus to guarantee it is safe and in good condition?
Our Newest Blue Seal Shop
Mike Sullivan and Jeff Schumacher lead First Student’s school bus fleet maintenancefor seven school districts in Marlborough, MA, a small city outside of Boston. Mike, Tech-in-Charge, became a mechanic in 2001 and began with First Student in 2007. Jeff, Shop Manager, has been in the school bus industry since 1985. They speak with enthusiasm while describing how their shop has recently earned Blue Seal of Excellence recognition — a goal they have worked hard to achieve since 2008. One by one, crew members have received certification in the ASE School Bus Series, shifting the shop culture to become a place of pride and excellence in service. “It feels like a good accomplishment,” Jeff describes, “it was a big push — we did it as a team.”
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is an independent non-profit organization founded in 1972 to improve the quality of vehicle repair and service by testing and certifying automotive professionals. The ASE Blue Seal is the most valued professional credential for the automotive repair and service industry.
In order to become Blue Seal Certified, a shop must meet the following requirements:
- At least 75% of technicians performing diagnosis and repairs must be ASE certified.
- Each area of service offered in the shop must be covered by at least one ASE-Certified Technician.
Auto technicians and other professionals interested in becoming ASE certified can take one or more of the following seven ASE exams within the School Bus Series: Body Systems & Special Equipment; Diesel Engines; Drive Train; Brakes; Suspension and Steering; Electrical/Electronic Systems and Air Conditioning Systems and Controls. These rigorous exams are designed to stress knowledge of job-related skills.
“Techs need to know not just how to adjust brakes, for example,” says Mike, “they need to also understand why they’re adjusting the brakes.” He considers this distinction to be a minimum requirement for working on school buses.
The Marlborough shop is committed to continuous learning and innovation, providing on-the-job training with a focus on diagnostics and new technologies in this evolving field. “These aren’t just service bays,” explains Jeff, “these are classrooms.”
After passing at least one exam and providing proof of two years of relevant work experience, the technician becomes ASE certified in the specific area. After a shop becomes a Blue Seal Shop they must re-certify annually to maintain the Blue Seal of Excellence Recognition status. This ensures each shop is staying up-to-date with the current maintenance technologies and safety best practices — a key benefit to our customers.
ASE exams are developed “by the techs, for the techs”; Mike has been nominated by First Student to sit on the national panel of seasoned automotive industry professionals and executives that writes the school bus ASE test questions.
First Student’s arrangement with ASE provides each technician several incentives and resources in an effort to support shop participation in the program, including:
- Registration and test fees are fully reimbursed, regardless of pass/fail.
- Manuals, books, study guides and practice tests are made available to all employees at no cost.
- Pre-testing, on-site training and re-testing of skill levels help to prepare techs for certification.
These resources support our employees by removing financial risks and other barriers to their pursuit of professional development and certification.
“You need to make it personal,” says Mike, “I encouraged my crew to consider how becoming certified will open up new job opportunities for them in the future. And, you know – when people feel they can get another job – they stay! It changes people’s perceptions,” he explains.
The Marlborough location’s labor union, International Association of Machinists (IAM) Local 447, has fully supported member participation, citing the Blue Seal Recognition Program as a “win-win” for the shop, the union, and the industry.
Key Benefits of Blue Seal Shops
- Efficiency — Blue Seal Shops fix it right the first time, making sure preventative maintenance and repairs are performed quickly and school buses are delivered on-time for service.
- Safety — Shops are equipped with the knowledge and training required to diagnose problems precisely and accurately so that buses are maintained and repaired to the highest safety standards.