Back in July of this year, two of my workmates and I went to the one week IC University course at the IC Bus plant in Tulsa, Okla. From British Columbia to Tulsa would be an eight-hour flight with some layovers, but we were all looking forward to the trip.
The course load was very well organized. Day one involved a plant tour followed by four days of theory and hands-on technical training, which consisted of engines, followed by bus maintenance, electrical and finally Allison Transmissions. Back at the Hotel where all 67 of us stayed there were nightly two-hour seminars on Ricon lifts, air conditioning and hydraulic brake systems. During our one-hour lunch breaks enjoying the down home southern cooking there was a presentation on bus paint as well as one by the stop arm manufacturers.
The mechanics from all over North America were split into three groups. It was interesting to find out how other shops operated and what some of their mechanical issues were. I found it humorous when one of the guys from Texas told me I talked funny.
It was nice to be able to experience hands-on training and out of our chairs for a few hours each day. We did some rework on engines, disassembled turbos and worked with the online ISIS program, Service Max and Diamond Logic software. My personal favorite was the Diamond Logic software with graphic images of electrical components, connectors and wiring. This software allows you to work with the specific VIN and avoid the time consuming task of physically tracing wires and digging into harnesses.
As part of the training, IC had a test bus set up with all the components exposed, which gave us the ability to troubleshoot a fault set up by the instructor. I had a hunch that the IC people were listening to feedback. Sitting for hours on end viewing Power Point presentations is very tiring, and the retention level is much lower than working hands-on with the tools and software. It made total sense to get tools in our hands and get some practical experience. We had a room full of mechanics, so what better way to get them motivated.
In the end I was very happy with the week long course and got the same feelings from other participants. We were informed this course is a basic primer to a more advanced version which I would not hesitate to sign up for. I would recommend to anyone with IC school buses to head on down to Tulsa for some great hospitality and training.
Whelan has worked as a school bus and truck mechanic for the past 34 years and is currently shop foreman for the School District No. 73 transportation department in Kamloops, British Columbia. In addition to being a regular contributor to School Transportation News, he shares his shop experiences at his personal blog site, "School Bus Mechanic."