Certify Me!

Recent discussions within the NGV industry have suggested the need for choices in paths to certify CNG Fuel System Inspectors. Fleets (and individuals) with natural gas vehicles are required to have their vehicles inspected for compliance with manufacturers’ guidelines for system integrity and safety every 3 years or 36,000 miles by a ‘certified’ fuel system inspector.

The word ‘certified’ is a loaded term. It means different things to different people. When technicians take my class we issue a certificate that basically says that they were in their seat and upright at the end of the class. But the definition suggested in the Compressed Gas Associations’ Pamphlet C-6.4 requires that they be credentialed by a nationally recognized organization that tests for specific knowledge of applicable fuel gas cylinder standards.

While there are other paths to certification, to date there has been only one path that meets this criteria, the ANSI/CSA Group Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) Cylinder and Fuel System Inspector Certification (http://shop.csa.ca/en/canada/invt/2703393) administered by the CSA Group in Cleveland, Ohio. Another organization has recently entered the market, the Natural Gas Vehicle Institute in Reno, NV. See the attached Press Release dated June 23, 2016.

This article explains the ANSI accredited CSA Group certification program to help NGV owners and operators make an informed choice for their certification program.

First, ‘truth in advertising’, I was on the original working group that helped develop the CSA certification so I’m biased from that perspective. But that does give me the ability to describe the development process in detail.

The key to the program is in the first part of the title…ANSI. The ANSI accreditation demonstrates the rigor and effort that went into developing the best possible program. The American National Standards Institute is an objective, third party organization that assesses the CSA certification against internationally set criteria for the development and operation of a personnel certification program. They accredit the CSA program, as well as many other technical disciplines (https://www.ansi.org/about_ansi/overview/overview.aspx?menuid=1).

The development of the CSA Group CNG certification program was an arduous process that involved effort by many industry experts, manufacturer representatives, cylinder inspectors, supervisors, educators and exam psychometricians over the course of two-years. This group developed the scope of the certification and job task list – the identification of exactly what an inspector does, and needs to know, in the course of an inspection. The job tasks were prioritized by importance and frequency and exam items were developed by even more subject matter experts. Each question was linked to a specific job task and vetted by a group the experts for accuracy and technical correctness. Then CSA tested the test. Questions that most got wrong were discarded, too hard to be useful. Questions that most got right were discarded, too easy tell us anything meaningful about the test taker. Only questions that differentiated between those that ‘knew it’ and those that did not were kept for use on the certification examination. Once the best test questions were identified the program was launched.

Further, ANSI personnel review the CSA’s program each year to help ensure the program and the examination remain current, valid, reliable and fair to all participants and the industry. To date, almost 2,000 technicians have taken the CSA exam, passed, and are certified to help protect the enviable safety record natural gas vehicles have accrued over the past thirty years.

There has been recent criticism of the CSA program because the exam is said to be difficult and some technicians have failed to earn certification. Understand that the CSA certification has been developed to assess a technician’s knowledge and ability to apply that knowledge. Contrary to what some industry people or groups think, not everyone should pass the exam. Not everyone has the appropriate knowledge or the ability to apply that knowledge when conducting safety inspections of CNG cylinders and fuel system. If everyone who takes a test passes, why give the test?

When making a decision on certification programs I would encourage NGV owners and operators to carefully consider the options available to them. If you just want your technicians to pass a test, there are a few options that will fit that bill. However, if you want to make sure your inspectors have the knowledge and ability to conduct inspections properly and help promote safety, the CSA Group CNG Cylinder and Fuel System Inspector certification continues to be the right choice.

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