From the Executive Director - October - 2022

It’s a Family Affair!

They say family makes you stronger, and I believe that’s true. I was an only child with a single mom; it was hard sometimes. There were countless days I wished I had a sibling. Over the years, I was adopted into other families through friendships. I had brothers, sisters, other moms, and father figures. It, to me, became a big family affair.

ATRA is, in a way, the same to me. Our industry spawns so many priceless brotherhood and sisterhood relationships. When you run into one of your brothers or sisters at seminars and Expos, the conversation literally picks up from the last time you spoke. Caring about one another is why this industry is so powerful. We all want to help when we can. Sometimes it’s about passing on knowledge, and other times it’s about offering empathy and encouragement.

If you attended this year’s Powertrain EXPO, you know it was one of the best in a long time. Hallway conversations and networking went on for five days straight. There were over 50 hours of combined technical and management training. The classes were well attended, and bountiful food and beverages filled everyone’s bellies.

We honored Dennis Madden for his years of service, recognized our retiring board members, and introduced our brand-new board members. We also presented Lifetime Achievement Awards to our training veterans having over 25 years with us and said our goodbyes to Vanessa Velasquez, our Director of Operations and Events Coordinator. We wish Vanessa the best in her life’s new chapter. Welcome in Sarah Janes, who will fill Vanessa’s shoes.

The highlight for me was the Member Townhall Meeting. Usually, this meeting is scheduled so early in the morning that it’s not very well attended. This year we moved it to Saturday evening after the training classes, and voila, people showed up – what a concept!

After the introductions and formalities, we jumped headfirst into a couple of projects we’re working on, and we’d like to get your feedback on the first project, our ATRA+ program.

ATRA+ reaches out to the general repair industry, seeking to answer the question, “Is the transmission problem caused by the transmission system, requiring replacing or rebuilding the transmission, or is the problem caused by something outside of the transmission, where replacing or rebuilding it doesn’t fix the concern?” This is a global industry problem, and ATRA wants to bring this fundamental training to all shops.

The second project is the ATRA University, which is the enhanced version of the ATRA Internship Program. The ATRA University Project is characterized by the relationship between ATRA, ATRA Chapters, and technical schools enrolled in VTS. During the COVID shutdowns, ATRA’s VTS program allowed students to continue their training through their transmission curriculum, allowing them to graduate on time using VTS credits. Because of this, school membership grew, but shops were still hungering for more. They want hands-on as well.

Here’s the idea, if a school has a shop, we’ll present part of the seminar Friday night, completing the classroom training Saturday morning. That afternoon, we’ll offer hands-on training in the shop, building on the classroom material. This effort has cultivated an interest in school instructors working closely with ATRA to produce custom training materials. Some instructors are interested in teaching ATRA seminar material to their classes and local shops, providing the potential to have training hubs across the US and Canada!

The University Project fosters interest for ATRA members to start more chapters to identify training needs for their areas and share that with ATRA for targeted, regionalized training materials. We saw this at Ron Lingenfelter’s shop in Norfolk, Nebraska. His event was featured in the June issue of GEARS, A Look Beyond the Horizon.

My last question is simple, “What’s one thing ATRA can do to help you get more transmission repairs out the door. I’d love to hear from you with your thoughts. Please email me at

ATRA is a member-owned association. Members have a say in the direction of the association. This is usually passed on from shops to a Chapter Representative or a Board member. If you’ve attended a seminar in your area, you may know who these representatives are. If not, have someone introduce you to one of them.

The ATRA Chapters, with the direction of the International Board of Directors, are essential to our growth and development. Together, under my leadership as Executive Director, we can make these ideas a reality. As always, I look forward to serving you and our future together.