A steady flow of new technicians is helping Wakefield Trucks, based in the northern Adelaide suburb of Salisbury next to the major freight routes heading for Port Augusta and Mildura. A lot of mixed fleets get all of their trucks serviced with Wakefield Trucks. However, the majority are North American product, where a lot of the skills and techniques are interchangeable across the brands.
South Australia is tough on trucks. They are pulling high masses at high average speeds for long trips; this makes plenty of work for repair shops. Engines, turbos, diffs and transmissions need to be replaced and if the truck does crash at high speed the body shop has a major task on its hands.
Apprentices start every six months at Wakefield Trucks, the numbers vary depending on the current workforce and contracts, but it is between two and four at each intake. Separately, the panel shop will take on apprentices, as and when it needs them.
“We have enough young guys coming through,” says Jason Soteriou, Workshop Manager. “Over the next couple of years, some of the older guys will be approaching a point where they may be looking to step back and either retire or semi-retire. That will allow the next generation of guys to take the next step. With the people we have coming through we don’t want to get exposed to a lack of skills.”
The workshop operates mainly with pits, although there are also hoists in the shop. There are seven working bays with pits, including one capable of handling a full B-double. The company find pits to be more efficient, from the point of view of time and maintenance stock. The hoists spend a lot of time being used for bus engine work, as a lot of bus engines are not centrally located and not easily accessible from the pit.
With most jobs involving more than just a quick lube and brake check, the pits prove to be more effective when handling work like clutch replacements. Adelaide seems to have a larger proportion of the truck population that is serviced and greased by its owners rather than at a dealership.
Engine rebuild work in the shop tends to be done on MAN, Cummins and Caterpillar, although the Cat population is starting to diminish as time goes on. Detroits tend to be channeled through the local Penske facility, although, if needed, the Wakefield team is trained and ready to handle the Detroit engines.
“You never quite get there with training,” says Jason. “Things are constantly updating and changing, and if one person leaves, you have to replace those skills. There is a big focus on online training, which is okay, but has its limitations.”