How IndyGo works with its aging mechanics

The key is to ease their path and plan ahead for attrition

By Vicki Learn

When I became the director of maintenance for with IndyGo, the transit agency for Indianapolis, IN, I first began diffusing what I called my “demographic time bomb.” IndyGo’s maintenance team is getting older with most of our mechanics age 50 or older. I knew I had to keep my seasoned workers happy, while I sought new talent to avoid a high rate of attrition when they retire.
I began by paying attention to what would minimize physical discomfort and maximize employee efficiency. Several ergonomic changes inside the garage included purchasing thick rubber mats to help with tired feet, new computer screens with bigger type, bar-type stools to help relieve spine pressure while doing data entry and portable PC diagnostic units that wheel right up to buses.
Additionally, we have reduced fatigue by redesigning how we park our buses so employees don’t have to take as many steps to get to the service tracks. This is also a change that allows maintenance to spend more time working on the buses, and less time trying to find them.
To keep the company from being stuck between a rock and a hard place when these valued employees retire, we have started to cross-train our maintenance staff. We are allowing our general laborers to take technician courses to become certified and properly trained as attrition starts to set in. It’s a great investment that allows us to do maintenance on our maintenance team.
We also acquire future talent through internships and partnerships with high school diesel technology programs. Over the summers we work with phenomenal young men. We hired one such student from Arsenal Tech High School as a part-time laborer during his senior year and will continue to train him so he will want to continue his career with us as an expert mechanic.
These changes and proactive measures have been small investments that have yielded large dividends. Productivity has gone up and absenteeism has gone down. Listening to and caring about employees is a big part of my job.

Vicki Learn is the Director of Maintenance for IndyGo in Indianapolis, IN. IndyGo is the Indianapolis Public Transportation Corporation, which provides public bus transit services throughout Marion Count, IN.