October 25, 2013

Roll Call: Alternative Fuel Vehicle Technician Certification Programs On the Rise

As the natural gas vehicle industry grows, more institutions are offering technician certification courses to meet growing student demand. These courses are designed to teach experienced automotive technicians to service and repair natural gas vehicles (NGVs).

Different jurisdictions have varying requirements for alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) technicians. The State of Oklahoma, for instance, stipulates that technicians who work on alternate fuel vehicles need to pass the Oklahoma State Certification Test to be certified as an alternative fuels equipment technician.

Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) has been offering courses in both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) for the past four years to prepare technicians to pass the state exam. The Professional Development Institute within the college offers a three-day program which has graduated about 450 people to date.  Six students take the $500 course each week, year round.
Shane Snyder is an automotive technician at Fowler Honda in Norman, Oklahoma. He recently completed OCCC’s course.

“It covers all of the bases in a short amount of time,” Shane said. “They teach a lot about natural gas vehicle laws and safety – once you know the information it’s much easier to work on the vehicles. I’m a lot more comfortable after taking the class.”

Shane said his peers work in the areas of fleet services, government fleets, and private dealerships, among others.

John Vanhook, Director of OCCC’s Professional Development Institute, said students receive training in safety, fuel characteristics, system descriptions and operation, fuel line bending, system diagnosis, system inspection and regulations. They have to pass five physical tests during the course where they ‘debug’ problems in a hands-on environment.

“We’ve achieved the state-level support that is needed,” John said. “We get inquiries from across the United States almost every day about this program.”

According to the Atlanta-based Natural Gas Vehicle Institute, NGV safety is a critical responsibility for every fleet manager operating CNG vehicles or liquefied natural gas (LNG) vehicles. The website states there are four key factors vital to safe NGV fleet operations:
  • Safe driving 
  • Safe fueling 
  • Safe maintenance 
  • Standardized fuel system inspections 
The demand for training in this area continues to grow, and in August Linn Benton College announced a $1.5 million award from the U.S. Economic Development Administration to help fund a 10,000 square foot alternative fuels training center in Lebanon, Oregon to train automotive, trucking and heavy equipment technicians, scheduled to open in 2014.

Check out these resources for more information on natural gas vehicle training and certification:

United States
(General): http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/technician_training.html
Oklahoma: http://www.occc.edu/
(The Oklahoma Division of Capital Assets Management in Oklahoma also offers a map which identifies alternative fuels technicians and/or companies who have been state-certified.)
Atlanta: http://www.ngvi.com/ngv_safety.html
West Virginia: http://naftc.wvu.edu/course_workshop_information/training_schedule
Oregon: https://www.linnbenton.edu/

(General): http://www.gowithnaturalgas.ca/getting-started/training/
Toronto: http://db2.centennialcollege.ca/ce/coursedetail.php?CourseCode=CEAF-804

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