From the CEO - July - 2022

The Long Pass

So far, it’s been a great year for ATRA, and I see a bright future ahead. But before I get into why the future of ATRA and the industry looks so bright, let me acknowledge a few things. Like everyone else, ATRA struggled these past two years, and we still haven’t fully recovered. Many of the things we took for granted, like having in-person seminars and a robust Expo. It didn’t seem so long ago when having those events were normal. You don’t need me to tell you the impact of these past two years; none of us were insulated from it, and most of us haven’t fully recovered.

So, where’s the bright future I led with? This interruption in our live classes forced us to find other ways to get the training out. After all, just because we couldn’t get to the techs didn’t mean they didn’t or want more training. This led to ramping up our virtual platform to get the training into schools. And through that process, we discovered needs beyond what we were serving before the pandemic. Think about that, being handed a need that we didn’t fully understand, yet one that ATRA can fulfill with gusto.

Here’s an example: Last month, I traveled to the small town of Norfolk, Nebraska, with Rodger Bland and Keith Clark. Also, with us were Thom Tschetter and Maylon Newton. Norfolk is about a two-hour drive northwest of Omaha and has a population of about 25,000. So why would the five of us converge on a small town like Norfolk? Because we were invited.

Actually, it’s more complicated than that. Ron Lingenfelter, the General Manager of Norfolk Transmissions, had an idea to invite shops in the area for a two-day training event. One thing led to another, and there we were. The opportunity revealed itself: Ron had gathered an audience of about 50. Many (if not most) have never been to an ATRA function. They were eager and excited about the training opportunity, and a technical college instructor, Joe Ottis, was in the audience.

The essence of the ATRA University Project and ATRA plus was right in front of us. ATRA plus is a program for delivering specific training to the industry. Its focus is determining if the problem is inside or outside the transmission. Keith Clark delivered a class on this, and the people loved it. The ATRA University Project (which began development about two years ago) seeks to train technical college instructors on ATRA materials, including ATRA plus.

From this, a small town like Norfolk can offer ATRA training to students and regional shops instead of the usual two-hour drive to Omaha. Duplicate this all over the country, and you have a grass-roots level of training that works. Now you can understand our excitement. I’d like to go on, but the time clock is ticking. It’s time for the long pass to my successor, ATRA’s Executive Director, Lance Wiggins. Here we go!

“Madden drops back for a pass. It’s a long one, 30, 40… 50 yards, and the pass is complete. It’s official, Wiggins has the ball.”

Touchdown!!!!!!!!!!! San Antonio, TX!!! The new home of the ATRA International Business Office and Research-Training Facility.

Lance writes:

I couldn’t imagine ever moving, having been, at the time, a lifelong resident of California, but sometimes it’s good to move the team to a different city and state to reboot the system.

I have been under the tutelage of my coach, Dennis Madden, for over 20 years. I’ve had the honor of being a starter for his team through the winning and losing years. He has taught me to be understanding and humble regardless of what happens and to compete at the highest level. While this new era of ATRA begins, I promise I will not lose sight of where it came from.

We have lots of great programs we’ll be introducing to our industry, including boot camps, hands-on training, chapter events, and specialized seminars. The ATRA University Project is taking the lead role in delivering ATRA material to schools, students, and their surrounding shops. Imagine having the same training you get from a regional seminar in 50 schools on the same day?

ATRA’s VTS program continues to play a leading role in Virtual Training. Last year we added subtitles, certificates of completion, and printable report cards. We have over 160 courses, 512 plus videos, and 107 downloadable documents, with more to come.

Our membership team has put together comprehensive programs to help ensure your membership experience is an A+ 5-star rating! Every new and existing Member will have the opportunity to schedule an orientation call or Zoom meeting with their ATRA Rep. This will ensure that the Member is familiar with all features and benefits of the association.

We’ll follow up with everyone with access to VTS, so they know how to access the system correctly and field any questions they may have.

You may have already received a postcard for your ATRA member representative. Regular and consistent communication with our reps will ensure we are filling your needs and the needs of our industry.

If you haven’t checked out the GEARS website, what are you waiting for? has all of the articles you know and love at your fingertips. Don’t forget to click on the “we’ve got a fix for that” link, where industry suppliers can highlight a product that can help you repair the specific transmission. Go NOW, check it out!

ATRA’s Powertrain Expo is from August 31st – September 4th. I know, I know, IT’S LABOR DAY weekend! I know it’s the “last day of Summer.” I know it’s the “Last day for vacations,” I know. But this is the BIGGEST, and I mean the BIGGEST technical lineup we have EVER had! EVER! Keith Clark, ATRA Technical Director, has come out of the gates strong and rallied to get 29 technical presentations lined up for you. Both English and Spanish presentations will be available. It’s the most amount of sessions and training hours ATRA has ever had. You asked for more tech, and we delivered! Check out and book your ticket to the Superbowl of EXPOS. Don’t forget to cash in on the early bird special and book your rooms!

By the way, catching a pass from Dennis Madden is like catching a pass from the GOAT himself! I look forward to serving as your Executive Director! It’s time to go to work!