Flint MTA: CNG Training Gave Us Increased Fleet Uptime and Lower Technician Turnover

By Emily Rios, Learning and Content Developer, NGVi

Mass Transportation Authority in Flint, Michigan (Flint MTA) is taking a huge step to reduce its carbon footprint by working towards a 100% alternative fuel fleet. Flint MTA began introducing CNG to its fleet in 2015, and started training with NGVi shortly after. Recently, NGVi had the opportunity to talk with Robert Ellsworth, Maintenance Quality Assurance Supervisor, to get a closer look at Flint MTA’s fleet and learn about the role of training in the agency’s CNG vehicle deployment.

Tell me a little more about Flint MTA’s current fleet, specifically your experience with CNG.

In total, Flint MTA has nearly 400 buses—50 of those running on CNG. In September 2016, Flint MTA received a total of $15 million in federal grants to purchase CNG buses and training for the technicians and bus drivers. This funding gave us the opportunity to introduce brand new buses that replaced diesel buses that were more than 20 years old. In conjunction with Consumers Energy, we now have a public compressed natural gas fueling station that allows us to fuel our CNG buses in fast-fill mode.

What are Flint MTA’s future plans surrounding CNG?

We plan on sticking with CNG for the long haul. Flint MTA’s goal is to create the cleanest operating environment, which means completely phasing out diesel all together.

How have you identified and addressed your technicians’ training needs regarding working with CNG vehicles?

At Flint MTA, we know that checking in with our technicians often is important. When we do, we ask our technicians for feedback on what they need to do their jobs better. If that means they need training, then we provide it for them. Additionally, any time we get any new equipment, we provide training for all technicians. I believe training is one reason our technician turnover rate has improved.

How does Flint MTA identify and choose training sources?

When we receive new buses, the manufacturer sends outs their trainer to provide familiarization of the news buses to our technicians. But that familiarization is not enough. We chose NGVi as our third-party training provider because your training helped us take care of our specific training needs. We have been able to take advantage of everything NGVi has to offer including, all three levels of technician training, attending public training, bringing training to our own facilities, as well as flexible online training.

Some fleet managers find the cost of third-party training a challenge. Is training cost a challenge for Flint MTA?

Yes, budget can be a challenge, but we worked with NGVi to select the most cost-effective ways to train our technicians. For example, while we prefer in-house training and our technicians seem to learn better that way, NGVi provides e-learning which we are currently using. There are also grants and manufacturer funding for alternative fuel training. When we receive these types of funding, we are able to dive into CNG training even more in-depth.

If another transit fleet maintenance manager asked you whether training beyond manufacturer familiarization for CNG buses is necessary, what would your answer be?

Absolutely! The number one reason is safety. Secondly, and not even far second, CNG training teaches our technicians about unique preventative maintenance requirements required for CNG vehicles. These maintenance practices are unique and have to be done in a certain amount of time, otherwise it causes our fleet to experience maintenance issues down the road and even more costs.

Lastly, what would you say are the three best outcomes for your technicians that are a result of CNG training?  

Our number one outcome is safety – we care about the well-being of our technicians and thanks to NGVi’s training, our technicians know how to safely work on CNG vehicles. We also see that the quality of work that our technicians produce has increased significantly. Lastly, more uptime for our fleet is a direct result of CNG training.

To learn more about how your transit fleet can benefit from NGVi training or to discuss funding available for training, contact Sabrina Dodd, Director of Business Development at sdodd@ngvi.com or 702-712-6748.

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