June 11, 2015
By Bill Hohlfeld
Shortly before 7, on a gray and dismal Saturday morning, when most of us are inclined to pull the covers up over our heads, Dennis Roberge is in full throttle. He’s checking his paperwork, the weather conditions and the status of the coffee urn that stands in prominent view at the main entrance to his facility in Elmsford, NY.
He’ll be staying in high gear until well past noon. That’s because Dennis is Director of Education and Training for Local 456, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and the training he’s got scheduled for twenty-two of his members is about to begin. Few people realize the extent of specialized training required to efficiently operate every commercial vehicle, whether they are boom trucks, dumpsters, flat beds, or delivery vehicles for concrete or oil.
On this particular morning, in a model of labor-management cooperation, Capital Carting & Demolition and Garito Construction have both supplied vehicles and drivers to act as instructors for the complex maneuvers entailed in operating large carting vehicles. Without the proper training, it is all too easy for an operator to snap the cables or derail the carts, and cause unimaginable harm to workers at a job site, or members of the public who happen to be in the vicinity of the vehicle at the time. Safety, as always, is of paramount importance.
The drivers receive the training at no out of pocket cost to them, but attend on their own time. They know it is to their advantage to master every skill set possible, so are keen to take advantage of the opportunity afforded to them. Employers, in turn, feel secure that their drivers are up to date in the latest procedures. Taxpayers benefit too, as Local 456 provides the personnel for many of Westchester’s municipalities such as Yonkers, Mount Vernon and Peekskill, just to name a few. It’s a scenario in which everybody benefits.
The training center is a constant buzz of activity reflecting the economic growth in the region. In particular, the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge has created a demand for OSHA 10, OSHA 30, Traffic Safety courses and TWICS and SWAC security clearance orientations. It also offers instruction in defensive driving.
Dennis knows the value of training first hand. He’s been a Teamster for nearly thirty years, and started his career operating a fork lift in a building materials yard. Over the past three decades he’s seen more than his fair share of concrete plants, heavy construction and paving. Currently, he is in the process of having funding approved by the Trustees for training for gas burner service work. “Knowing every aspect of your job, creates opportunities for work; it’s that simple,” says Dennis.
One of the drivers who was present for training, Andy Bizzaco, himself a a 27 year veteran, echoed those sentiments, and summed up the whole point of the exercise. “I’m working, but I’m here to keep my skills current. The more you know, the more work you get.”