ZEB Workforce Transition Resources
The Road to Zero Emission Buses — National Coordinated Effort to Prepare Frontline Technicians
Transitioning from work with the 12- and 24-volts electrical systems in traditional diesel and CNG buses to Zero Emissions Buses (ZEBs), with upwards of 800 volts, requires a significant commitment to additional skills training and development. Transit Workforce Center is producing critical resources as part of a nationally coordinated effort to help prepare frontline technicians with the training needed to meet the challenges and demands of this new technology.
ZEB Maintenance Training Materials
The TWC has released a complete training course to supply agencies with ready-to-use materials to familiarize technicians with Battery Electric Bus (BEB) maintenance, technology, and safety fundamentals. The product includes classroom materials, instructional videos, hands-on exercises, and assessments that prepares technicians for product-specific training offered by bus manufacturers. Based on a three-part webinar series on BEB Familiarization developed by the International Transportation Learning Center (ITLC) in coordination with major bus manufacturers, and delivered to hundreds of technicians across multiple agencies in 2021, this course provides technicians with a foundational understanding of this rapidly-developing technology.
National ZEB Maintenance Training Standards
The TWC worked with the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), local transit agencies, transit labor unions, and zero emission bus (ZEB) manufacturers to facilitate discussions among subject matter experts (SMEs) on the training needed for ZEB technicians. These SMEs defined what training is necessary to obtain the essential knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform maintenance and diagnostic tasks safely. Through working with APTA, the recommended training practices developed will be the training standard for the industry because of APTA’s status as a standard-setting organization. In the spring of 2023, the SME review process was completed, and the recommended training practices are now going through public comment before being finalized and issued as the industry standard.
Recommended Expanded RFP Language for ZEB Training
In conjunction with Jobs to Move America (JMA), ITLC has developed sample language that transit agencies can use when procuring ZEB training. The language, intended to be inserted into the agency’s request for proposals (RFPs) when bidding for ZEBs, includes recommendations for specifying the type, quality, and duration of training and personal protective equipment (PPE). This suggested RFP language builds and expands upon material contained in the APTA Standard Bus Procurement Guidelines (SBPG). The ITLC/JMA language provides additional detailed recommendations for the procurement of training that helps assure agencies that the training procured is comprehensive and will meet the instructional needs of both operators and technicians.
Resources and Best Practices for a Zero Emission-Workforce Fleet Transition Plan
The contents of these webpages do not have the force and effect of law and are not meant to bind the public in any way. These webpages are intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies. Grantees and subgrantees should refer to FTA’s statutes and regulations for applicable requirements. The United States Government and the Transit Workforce Center do not endorse any specific transit agency, organization, or manufacturer referenced in this document.
Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, transit agencies using the expanded Low or No Emission Program or the Grants for Buses and Bus Facilities Competitive Program to purchase Zero Emission Bus (battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell, or rubber tire trolley buses powered by overhead catenaries) must submit a plan for implementing a transition to a Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) fleet. The Zero Emission Fleet Transition Plan includes six (6) required elements, including:
Element 6: Examine the impact of the transition on the applicant’s current workforce by identifying skill gaps, training needs, and retraining needs of the existing workers of the applicant to operate and maintain zero-emission vehicles and related infrastructure and avoid displacement of the existing workforce.
To assist agencies with an examination of the impact of transition to a zero emission fleet on the current workforce, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) will be issuing information on a Zero Emission Fleet Transition Plan Element 6: Workforce Evaluation Tool. This tool is designed to aid applicants in drafting Element 6. In this tool agencies will find eight major questions that they are recommended to address (see Figure 1 below for a summary of the eight questions).
Figure 1. ZEB Workforce Transition Plan – Steps for Development
Benefits of an Effective Workforce Plan
The following best practices and resources are provided as a supplemental resource to the above-mentioned eight questions to aid agencies seeking to develop and implement a carefully planned joint labor-management workforce strategy for the transition to a zero-emission fleet in partnership with its workforce. Examples of best practices, lessons learned, and other resources are provided to help transit agencies examine and address their workforce needs and are not intended to be all-inclusive given the unique circumstances of that transit agencies face.
While particular agency circumstances will vary, an effective workforce development supports transit and all its stakeholders. Working under a comprehensive workforce development plan results in significant benefits, ensuring that:
- Workers have the necessary skills to make the changeover from more traditional buses, which they are familiar with, to ZEBs, which feature technologies and systems that may be new to them;
- Skills developed as part of the transition plan will help keep workers safe as they shift to these new technologies;
- Newly developed skills will allow the incumbent workforce to continue their careers and not be displaced;
- Labor and management work as a team to make the transition smooth and efficient;
- The agency has a skilled workforce that allows ZEBs to spend more time in revenue service carrying passengers and contributing to lowering greenhouse gas emissions;
- Monies are conserved through proper diagnosis, repair, and operation of the ZEB fleet; and
- Public investments in ZEBs are made wisely and without unnecessary waste.
About these Webpages
It is important to note that these webpages offer an initial set of building blocks for creating a comprehensive workforce development plan for ZEB transition, a plan that should cover all affected transit frontline workers. These webpages currently focus on preparation needed for the maintenance workforce. Some of the resources and best practices cover and apply to bus operators, but the next set of resources, currently under development, will focus on transitioning bus operators to ZEBs.
The materials here are intended to support agencies addressing the eight questions by providing general approaches and various forms of resources as they plan for workforce development in their transition to ZEBs. All elements contained here are part of a “living library” that will be supplemented with additional resources and best practices on an ongoing basis.
Click here to navigate to best practices and resources for each question. Some of the information may repeat under multiple questions. Resources are provided as embedded links in the Best Practice sections. An additional list of resources not referenced in the text is provided at the end of each question.