Getting the lowdown on ARA Certified
By Brock Huffstutler
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Getting the lowdown on ARA Certified

A conversation with ARA’s education team leaders

In conjunction with the American Rental Association’s (ARA) newly launched ARA Certified programs covering mobile elevating work platforms (MEWPs) as well as sales and service for those in the equipment rental segment, Rental Management spoke with Lauren Watts, ARA director of education, and Kevin Gern, ARA vice president of education and risk management, to get more details on the programs and what ARA members should know about them.

Rental Management: How did the concept come about for ARA to be a vehicle for these four certification programs — MEWP Train the Trainer, MEWP Operator, Sales and Service?

Lauren Watts: We used ARA’s strategic plan as a roadmap along with member feedback to build the ARA Certified framework. We know that employers are looking for job-specific, skills-based programs for their employees, and we want them to look to ARA first for all their training needs. These programs are just the beginning for ARA Certified.

Rental Management: Can you describe the level of input that industry professionals had in developing these courses?

Watts: We couldn’t have built this program without the help of so many members and Tim Allen, Allen Rental, Roseburg, Ore.; Doug Haas, Crown Rental, Burnsvillle, Minn.; Steve Mau, Brainerd General Rental, Baxter, Minn.; and Bryce Puckett, Kirby-Smith Machinery, Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas — were integral to the entire process of building ARA Certified Sales and ARA Certified Service. We always look to our experts — our members — when we create programs for them.

Rental Management: Concerning the MEWP-related offerings, how can ARA Certified programs help members stay in compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards?

Kevin Gern: Under OSHA, it is the duty of the employer to make sure that you train your employees properly anytime training is required. One of the things that requires not just a certificate of training, but certification, are MEWPs. If employers don’t provide that training, they could get hit with fines. As of Jan. 13, 2022, OSHA’s fines are $14,502 per violation — it has gone up almost $1,000 since last year. So, the ARA Certified training absolutely helps with OSHA compliance.

As far as ANSI, the ARA Certified MEWP programs were written from the ANSI A92 standards. Even though those are voluntary, recommended standards, OSHA utilizes them to ensure that employers are doing the right thing, and OSHA is the one that enforces things.

Rental Management: How will ARA Certified programs handle MEWP recertification requirements?

Gern: Recertification is required if the standards change or if the training you have received expires. The certifications that ARA will issue will be valid for five years. After that, people will have to take the course over again to recertify. However, if the ANSI standards change prior to the expiration date on the certification, the operator will need to recertify sooner to be compliant with the new standards.

Rental Management: The MEWP Train the Trainer course involves a live, hands-on component conducted by a “Master Trainer.” Can you clarify that term and describe who those master trainers are?

Gern: ARA has coined the term “Master Trainer” for use within the ARA training program. This term refers to the ARA staff and contractors that are hired to present, document and deliver the ARA Certified Train the Trainer program to our members.

Rental Management: Some industry manufacturers offer MEWP training courses. What advantages do ARA’s MEWP-related certification courses offer over theirs?

Gern: The nice thing with our program is that RentalU is going to do the heavy lifting as far as the classroom training and it is self-paced for the student. The other benefit is that RentalU will track, record and save all the documented pieces: that the student logged in, they took the course, they took the written test, they passed the written test. And when students go out for the hands-on portion, the trainers will fill out the forms and submit them back to our education team for upload into our software, so students and trainers won’t have to worry about it. It’s going to save our members a ton of time, increase their efficiency and it also ensures that the training content is covered the same way every single time.

Rental Management: What is the biggest selling point for the ARA Certified Sales program?

Watts: To me, it’s the scenario-based learning. The courses were created to offer fundamental sales principles that are proven to increase success. There are also two digital marketing courses that will help anyone in the industry feel confident in developing a marketing plan and be more comfortable using digital platforms to do so.

Rental Management: What about the top advantages provided by ARA Certified Service?

Watts: The service track of this program is succinct, foundational and interactive. There are a ton of animated videos that illustrate the inner workings of engines along with activities to test students’ knowledge. Members who have previewed this content say it’s exactly what they’ve been looking for to educate their staff.

Rental Management: When did production begin on these certification programs? How long in the making were they, collectively?

Watts: It’s crazy to believe, but we finalized the syllabus and the format for ARA Certified in June 2020. I can’t say enough about the fortitude of the education department. Through all that has happened in the last two years, we never quit or slowed down. These programs reflect the dedication of a special group of people set on serving our members.

Rental Management: How does the price tag of ARA Certified programs compare with similar training that members could receive elsewhere?

Watts: Our members cannot find rental-specific professional development anywhere else. This training is a fraction of the price other sources charge for similar courses. Our goal is to elevate the industry and create standardized knowledge without hurting our members’ pocketbooks.

Rental Management: Do you have an estimate on the amount of time it would reasonably take for the average rental employee to work through these programs?

Watts: ARA Certified Sales and ARA Certified Service take about 20 hours each. They are self-paced courses that will remember a student’s progress when they stop to take a break.

Rental Management: Where should an ARA member start if they are interested in pursuing an ARA Certified program?

Watts: At ARArental.org/MEWP for the MEWP training, and at ARArental.org/Certified for the ARA Certified Sales and ARA Certified Service programs. If a member is interested in becoming an ARA Certified MEWP Trainer, they will need to download the application on the website and email it to education@ararental.org.

Rental Management: What can you reveal about the forthcoming ARA Certified Forklift Operator program, as well as when updates to courses for ARA’s Professional Driver Education Program and Certified Event Rental Professional (CERP) may be expected?

Gern: These first ARA Certified programs have started the ball rolling. There is more to come. We are planning a Class 1-5 industrial fork truck certification for release in the near future, and we also plan to create a program for Class 7 rough terrain fork trucks, which are sometimes known as a lull, Pettibone, telehandler or shooting boom forklift — it will also cover the straight mast rough terrain fork truck.

Watts: The Professional Driver Education Program is currently our most popular offering. We plan to improve it this year with newer videos, interactive elements and updated regulations. It will also include examples of load securement of various sized trucks and trailers. We’re also updating CERP, the event rental industry’s only professional certification. The program is more than 20 years old, and we’re excited to  freshen the content and the delivery method.

Brock Huffstutler

Brock HuffstutlerBrock Huffstutler

Brock Huffstutler is the regional news editor for Rental Management. He writes and edits articles for ARA’s In Your Region quarterly regional newsletters, Rental Management, Rental Pulse and other special projects. Outside of work, he enjoys biking and spending time at the few remaining vintage record stores in the region.

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