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The U.S. electric truck market is seeing incredible momentum, with major manufacturers commercializing an array of new medium- and heavy-duty models, including the Volvo VNR Electric Class 8 truck. The Volvo VNR Electric entered commercial production this year and is being delivered to businesses from coast to coast to help reduce both their fleet operating costs and emissions. Achieving widescale deployment of medium- and heavy-duty battery-electric vehicles (BEV) will require a highly skilled and specialized workforce to support, maintain, and repair advanced electric drivetrains and their increasingly sophisticated technology.
Through the Volvo LIGHTS project — a unique collaboration between Volvo Trucks North America, South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD), Rio Hondo College, San Bernardino Valley College (SBVC), and 10 other organizations to design a blueprint for successful BEV deployment — the two Southern California colleges are taking the lead in meeting this demand. In Fall 2020, Rio Hondo and SBVC launched comprehensive electric truck technician training programs to help train and support the next generation of maintenance technicians. This month, the first students to have completed the programs are preparing to graduate and enter the workforce.
Developing a Specialized Workforce to Meet Rapidly Growing Demand
Electric trucks can bring highly skilled, higher paying jobs to support maintenance and repair, thus presenting exciting and rewarding career opportunities. Rio Hondo and SBVC’s programs are preparing students for entry-level positions in medium- and heavy-duty advanced clean truck maintenance and field service.
“Health and safety are core principles for Volvo Trucks, which is why we value the partnerships we’ve developed with Rio Hondo and SBVC through the Volvo LIGHTS project. Their programs help equip the next generation of truck technicians with the knowledge and skills they need to safely perform maintenance on electric drivetrains and components,” said Peter Voorhoeve, president, Volvo Trucks North America. “As we continue to deploy Volvo VNR Electric models to customers in Southern California and across the country, their programs will help provide our Volvo Trucks’ dealership network with access to qualified battery-electric truck technicians, and prepare students for well-paying jobs in those regions.”
Spotlight: San Bernardino Valley College
SBVC enables students to earn Heavy-/Medium-Duty Truck Technology Certificates or an associate degree, by taking a range of courses, including truck electrical systems, electrical systems diagnosis and repair, engine repair, and more. San Bernardino Valley College offers a certificate and associate degree-level training program specific to heavy-duty, battery-electric truck maintenance to promote the region’s workforce development.
The Volvo LIGHTS project has enabled SBVC to purchase equipment for hands-on training, including electric motors and batteries. Students take the motors apart and reassemble them, as well as perform insulation tests and use an oscilloscope to monitor electricity to see how it moves.
“The Heavy-/Medium-Duty Truck Technology program is an exciting opportunity for seasoned professionals as well as those new to the workplace,” says Kenny Melancon, faculty chair of Automotive, Auto Collision, and Heavy-/Medium-Duty Truck within the Applied Technology, Transportation and Culinary Arts Department at San Bernardino Valley College. “Anyone wishing to learn about battery-electric truck technology to start their career or enhance their current work experience can benefit from this program and utilize their knowledge in the real word immediately upon completion.”
SBVC has its first five graduates from the Heavy/Medium Clean Vehicle Technology program in May 2021. All five students earned a $1,000 scholarship from Southern California Edison for completing the EV program.
Spotlight: Rio Hondo College
Through the Volvo LIGHTS project, Rio Hondo College designed a technician program specific to Volvo heavy-duty electric truck maintenance, helping to support workforce development in the region and utilizing Volvo’s first-of-its-kind augmented reality–based training program. The Automotive Technology Program at Rio Hondo College enables students to earn degrees and certificates in a range of areas, including advanced engine performance, alternative fuels and advanced transportation technology, and electric vehicle and fuel cell technology.
Students of the program develop their skills in part by working on a mock E-drive system with a rack and drive unit supplied by Volvo Trucks. This is a simulator on a stand with rotational view of the drive and trans axle.
“Advanced, electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicles require a highly skilled and specialized workforce to support, maintain, and repair advanced electric drivetrains and their increasingly sophisticated technology,” says John Frala, professor of Alternative Fuels Technology at Rio Hondo. “Our curriculum not only provides technical training, but also examines the importance of the proliferation of zero-emissions in efforts to reduce air pollution.”
Rio Hondo is pleased to introduce 12 graduating students with an Associate of Science degree in Alternative Fuel Technology, three with an Associate of Science in the Electric Vehicle and Fuel Cell Technology Technician program, and four students earning a Certificate of Achievement in Electric Vehicle and Fuel Cell Technology. Five of these students have won scholarships to continue their education from the Automotive Service Council Education Foundation (ASCEF.) Cecilia Ledesma has been awarded Outstanding Student from the Rio Hondo College foundation.
Students completing both the SBVC and Rio Hondo programs can successfully pass the Volvo VNR Electric high-voltage safety training test, the first of many certifications in the Volvo LIGHTS project.
Starting a Truck Technician Career at TEC Equipment
Volvo Trucks’ largest West Coast dealership and a Volvo LIGHTS project partner, TEC Equipment, offers one promising career path for graduates of both SBVC and Rio Hondo’s programs. TEC Equipment provides continued battery-electric vehicle support and access to expert knowledge about the Volvo VNR Electric model to customers deploying the technology.
“We are honored to be the Volvo Trucks dealership that is pioneering electric truck technician training and customer support,” said David Thompson, founder and CEO, TEC Equipment . “Through partnerships with the community colleges and the Volvo LIGHTS project, we take pride in being on the forefront of supporting these talented new technicians and their role in the future of fleet electrification.”
Working toward California’s clean air and climate protection goals
The Volvo LIGHTS project was made possible by an award from the California Air Resources Board (CARB) as part of California Climate Investments (CCI), a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities.