"Sorry, we are looking for technicians with experience."

How many times have vocational or technical school graduates heard this statement? In turn, they think, "If no one will hire me, how will I get experience?"

One entry-level option in many medium and large companies is the parts driver position. Some companies actually require their installation and service technicians to spend time in this role before moving on to another position. The parts driver is very important to a company and is one of the best investments the budding professional technician can make in his or her career.

Let's examine the basic duties of the position, the personal development opportunities that may be available within the company, and tips on enhancing the position.

The Role

The parts driver generally reports to the service manager, installation manager, or operations manager. The following are some of the position's basic responsibilities:

  • Pick up parts and equipment from wholesalers.

  • Deliver parts and/or equipment to jobsite or warehouse.

  • Deliver fabricated sheet metal or duct board to jobsite.

  • Remove scrap and help clean up jobsite.

  • Maintain, clean, and help organize warehouse.

  • Help maintain parts and/or equipment inventory.

  • Assist field personnel when needed.

  • Assist office staff with warranty parts processing.

  • Help keep delivery vehicles clean and on a maintenance schedule.

    Larger companies will often assign a separate driver to the install and service divisions. Some companies also have separate warehouse personnel.

    Personal Development

    The parts driver's position is unique in that it interacts with nearly all other positions within the organization. This gives the parts driver a distinct advantage in learning more about the company's overall operation. Here are more opportunities for personal development:

    Interact with the company's vendors - By developing relationships with vendor employees, the parts driver is building a future network of invaluable resources. The parts driver will quickly learn when vendors are treated with courtesy and respect, the service that he or she receives "magically" improves.

    Ask questions - Every jobsite visited or technician interacted with lends the opportunity of a learning experience. If the parts driver is respectful and inquisitive, the veteran technician will usually oblige and answer questions.

    Learn safety procedures - The parts driver is in a position to learn the safety procedures of various positions within the company, including his or her own. This exposure will benefit the individual as he/she moves into a field position. Learning proper lifting techniques is also essential to the parts driver.

    Learn to navigate the region - The parts driver's knowledge of the region will be a tremendous benefit once he or she becomes a technician.

    Enhancing The Position

    When employees add value to whatever work they are doing, they become more valuable to the company. By trying to discover and implement new ways of perfecting their craft, parts drivers can practice methods of innovation that will carry over to the technician role. Here are a few suggestions and items that will help enhance the position:

    Check your vehicle - Check oil, coolant, and transmission fluid once per week. If the vehicle is older, check these fluids daily. Make sure cargo is secured and all gates or doors are shut tight. Keep a maintenance log and remind the manager when it is time for service.

    Vehicle fueling - Never fuel your vehicle on the way to deliver parts or material. Always fuel it on your way back to the office at the end of the day.

    Safety gear - Always carry a first aid kit, fire extinguisher, hardhat, gloves, and safety glasses. If there is room, carry a set of basic hand tools and a 50-foot rope.

    Digital camera - Take pictures to help explain field situations, applications, and jobsites to your manager. Look up and study service and install applications that you encounter during the day. Pictures of these applications will help the learning process.

    Planner - Document your schedule in a planner or PDA. Keep notes on daily activities and record your hours.

    Tools and meters - Begin to assemble the tools and meters that you will eventually use as a technician. Try to average purchasing one tool per week.

    Zippered pouch - Place paperwork, invoices, or checks in a zippered pouch when transporting them to or from the office.

    When on a jobsite, always support the technician receiving the parts you deliver. Learn to anticipate the next step the technician might take. For instance, if you've just helped to remove an old furnace, sweep up the area before the technician asks for help. Always leave a jobsite cleaner than when you arrived.

    When picking up material from a vendor, know what you are supposed to pick up and verify that you have the correct parts before you leave. Check part numbers. Vendors will quite often have information on new tools and products displayed at their counter. Pick up this information and tell others in your company.

    David E. Rothacker is a member of the National Comfort Institute's Advisory Board and a National Comfort Team Founding Member. For questions or comments on Tech Basics, contact Rothacker at ewizzard@hotmail.com.

    Publication date: 06/28/2004