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February 22, 2022   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Skilled Service Technicians Aren’t Just Turning Wrenches, They’re Building Futures

Today’s technicians are far more than mechanics muscling lug nuts and performing oil changes

Recently in a letter to the editor of an Idaho newspaper, a writer suggested that young people seeking training to become diesel and gasoline engine service technicians were going to be dinosaurs. He implied that the future outlook for these skilled technicians was bleak and prospective students would be “wise” to focus on other high-tech pursuits, such as electronics and computers.

With all the focus on electric passenger vehicles, this comment, while somewhat understandable, is misinformed. Diesel engines and equipment will be around for the foreseeable future still dominating many sectors of the global economy. They will require an increasingly skilled workforce to maintain as well.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), more than 28,000 job openings for diesel mechanics and service technicians are projected each year through 2030.

Today’s technicians are far more than mechanics muscling lug nuts and performing oil changes. New technology diesel engines have sophisticated emissions control systems and engine computers that precisely control engine operations, including selective catalytic reduction systems, particulate filter pressure monitoring and regeneration cycles as well as safety systems such as blind spot and cross traffic sensing devices. Today’s technicians spend more time using computers than crescent wrenches to maintain, diagnose and repair these high tech critical vehicle systems. With the growing internet economy, and increased volume of goods movement, more commercial trucks and vans are on the road than ever before further boosting the need for qualified service technicians.

Investments in People and Training Programs Are Growing 

From coast to coast, training opportunities for skilled heavy-duty diesel engine and vehicle service technicians are expanding. Public school vocational programs, community colleges, and private training providers provide a growing number of opportunities for students from all parts of the country. 

Virginia Highlands Community College announced a $6 million, 18,000-square-foot expansion of its Advanced Technology and Workforce Development Center to accommodate a 25% increase in class size for diesel mechanics.   

Increasingly women are finding diesel mechanics a desirable career option. A National Science Foundation grant enabled Wallace State (Alabama) to boost its efforts to attract women to careers in diesel repair and service industries. Wes Rakestraw, WSCC Dean of Applied Technologies said, “Diesel technology graduates are critical to the future of our economy and national supply chains. If you want a good paying career with strong job security, diesel technology is a wonderful option.” The State of Alabama projects a need for 3,000 trained diesel repair mechanics by 2028.

In New York, SUNY Morrisville recently completed construction on a 30,000 sq. ft., $16 million facility. The new Agricultural and Clean Energy Technology Center provides hands on learning and houses renewable energy, agricultural engineering and diesel technology programs.

Wabtec announced a donation of $15,000 to Montana State University-Northern to provide scholarships for students enrolled in electrical, diesel technology, automotive technology or advance fuels programs.

Manufacturers, suppliers and dealers support these training opportunities for students with scholarships, providing tools, engines and equipment for real-world hands-on training. These programs are all steppingstones to entry level jobs with dealers, manufacturers and independent repair facilities.

The work on diesel engines isn’t limited to a garage servicing commercial vehicles. Since diesel engines dominate key sectors of the economy, there are many career opportunities to service marine workboat and railroad diesel engines, farm tractors, construction equipment and electrical generators, both in the field and at customer locations.

According to a snapshot from the employment website Indeed.com, salaries for diesel repair technicians range from $27/hr to over $40/hr with some employers. That’s up to $91,000 per year annually, not including possible overtime and other benefits.    

Diesel Technicians Quick Facts

Image credit: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics



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