Do you still call a restaurant server a waiter? What about a flight attendant — a stewardess? Is a nail technician a manicurist? And are your agency’s fleet technicians called mechanics?

Although many fleets have technicians working on the shop floor, many others call these same employees mechanics. Is there a difference? While you may think it doesn’t matter what technicians are called if they get the same pay, moving toward the technician title adds professionalism to the industry and better reflects what modern technicians actually do.

Paul Condran, fleet services manager for the City of Culver City, Calif., believes the mechanic title is outdated for the duties of fleet technicians.

“I was always of the opinion that the term mechanic really didn’t denote what my staff was actually responsible for,” he said. “We use so many advanced technologies, like vehicle technology and computer technology, well beyond alternative fuels. The electronic systems on transit vehicles, on refuse trucks, and on other fleet units continue to change.”

Three years ago, he changed staff titles, moving from mechanic, assistant mechanic, and equipment service worker to sr. fleet services technician, fleet services technician, and fleet services assistant.

It’s a way to distinguish from facilities that may only do preventive maintenance and also to show that these employees don’t just perform fluid changes, but are resonsible for vehicles from acquisition to remarketing.

About 10 years ago, he also had the division name changed from the City Garage to Equipment Maintenance and Fleet Services Division.

“We’re not some place you park your car in, first of all,” he explained. And garage “conjured up some old, dingy facility that wasn’t really a modern, well-maintained, clean facility.”

While it’s rare, I do see some fleets called garages, and I always make a note of it because the term seems outdated.

I understand that every fleet or garage has its own way of labeling things. I had my brakes replaced at a facility that seemed to use both terms, mechanic and technician, depending on skill set.

Maybe your “mechanics” don’t care all that much. What’s the big deal anyway, right?

But think about how those outside the industry view these titles. Does your fleet website talk about technicians or mechanics? Does your HR department recruit technicians or mechanics? Does a city council document list a recommendation from fleet or from the garage? Could one term suggest more professionalism than the other?

By pushing forward a name that leaves a more professional impression of the organization, and perhaps more accurately reflects the evolved job responsibilities of your technicians, you’re helping move the industry forward.

Between that and fleet managers advocating for higher pay for public sector technicians, in the form of job reclassification, certification incentives, and perhaps additional pay for specific skill sets, the public fleet industry can become a place where people aspire to work.

I’ll admit I still sometimes refer to the server as a waiter. But the more I hear the new terms, the more likely I’ll repeat them.

“What’s in a name?” Shakespeare asked. That may work for roses, but if you’re trying to make some changes to the fleet industry, a name can mean a lot.

What are your thoughts? Did you push for switching from “mechanic” to “technician,” and what motivated you to do so?

Author

Thi Dao
Thi Dao

Thi Dao

Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

View Bio
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