Pros and Cons of a Career as a Diesel Truck Technician
Diesel truck technicians maintain and repair the diesel engines in trucks and other equipment used for transportation. Check out the following pros and cons to decide if a career as a diesel truck technician is right for you.
|PROS of a Diesel Truck Technician Career|
|Potentially good salary (median annual wage of $44,000 as of May 2014)*|
|May choose formal training or on-the-job training with accredited programs offered in 38 states*|
|Most parts of the nation employ diesel truck technicians*|
|Room for advancement in management or shop ownership*|
|Often work in bright, well-ventilated indoor areas*|
|CONS of a Diesel Truck Technician Career|
|Low beginning salaries (starting in the mid-twenties)**|
|May have to supply own hand tools*|
|Involves lifting heavy parts and lying or standing in difficult positions*|
|May work in noisy or drafty areas*|
|Minor injuries are common*|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), **National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF).
Job Description and Duties
As a diesel truck technician, you work on various types of truck repairs, in both electrical systems and engines. If you work for an organization that takes care of its own vehicles, you do a lot of preventive maintenance. Overall, the technician keeps the vehicles in good working order through inspection and routine maintenance procedures, such as checking the batteries, changing oil and lubricating engine parts. Additionally, you inspect steering and brake mechanisms as well as transmissions. You use many types of power tools supplied by your employer and hand tools that you may be expected to furnish. You'll follow safety procedures to avoid serious accidents. You might work on your own, with a team of technicians, or get help from an apprentice. Most technicians put in a 40-hour week, but you might work for a shop with extended daily or weekend repair hours.
Salary and Career Prospects
In May 2014, the BLS listed an annual mean wage of about $45,000 for bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists. The top paying states were Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Connecticut and Washington. The BLS also noted that many experienced diesel truck technicians who work for dealers or repair shops earn a commission based on customer charges. Their earnings then depend on how much work they actually accomplish. According to the BLS, the middle 50% of earners received an annual wage of roughly $35,000 to $55,000. Some earn even more by working overtime. Sometimes technicians join labor unions and receive extra benefits as well.
The BLS revealed expected employment growth of 12% from 2014 through 2024, which is faster than average. The largest number of jobs for diesel truck technicians is found in towns where there are trucking companies or large fleet operations. Many new technicians have already earned degrees and certifications, but some get jobs as high school graduates, learning on the job and then earning certifications. Some technicians choose to stay with truck repair, while others decide to teach or become sales representatives.
Although formal training is not required, your opportunities will be much better if you get training after high school. The NATEF, in conjunction with the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), has a listing of certified programs in 38 states. These programs are offered through community colleges, vocational/technical schools and career centers. These diesel engine programs also include skills in language arts, math and science. Most programs grant a certificate of completion or an associate degree and may take from six months to two years to finish.
What Employers Are Seeking
Employers look for technicians with good problem-solving skills and strong mechanical aptitude. They also want workers who are in good physical shape and have a state commercial license. You might be asked to take a drug test. Read the following excerpts taken from real job postings in March 2012:
- A full-service truck dealership in Arkansas advertised for a full-time diesel truck technician, with at least one year of experience and vocational training. This employee would do inspections and preventive maintenance, install upgrades and keep records. Compensation was competitive and included a benefits package.
- A truck dealer and service provider in Wisconsin was looking for a full-time diesel mechanic/technician with an associate degree in diesel technology or equal experience. ASE certification was preferred, but not required, and the dealer would pay for the testing. This worker would maintain, troubleshoot and repair as well as work on alignment of vehicles. Wages were highly competitive and included a large benefit package and in-house training.
- A privately-owned truck center in North Carolina advertised for a heavy diesel truck technician with proven experience, heavy diagnostic abilities and strong communication skills. This employee would efficiently maintain and repair diesel and gas engines. This truck center required maintenance of certifications and participation in training programs. The hourly wage was competitive and included benefits and an incentive for efficiency. Uniforms were provided.
How to Beat the Competition
You'll have the best job prospects by completing postsecondary education. Without training, you might face keen competition. Additionally, ASE certifications may help you stand out above your peers. These certifications are offered in a wide range of areas, such as in brakes, steering, drivetrains, electronics, or preventive maintenance. You must pass a series of exams through ASE for each certification and show at least two years of experience in that area, before becoming a master technician. You'll also have to retest every five years to keep your certifications. Sometimes employers will send technicians for training to learn about current technologies and techniques.
Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanic and Technician
Maybe you've decided that working on trucks isn't the right job for you. You might want to consider repairing and performing scheduled maintenance on helicopters and airplanes. You could also inspect aircraft according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations. Some postsecondary education is required, with employers increasingly giving preference to those with a bachelor's degree. However, the median annual wage in 2011 was around $55,000, according to the BLS. Unfortunately, employment was only projected to grow about six percent between 2010-2020, with about 9,100 jobs expected to be added to the field.
Automotive Service Technician and Mechanic
Possibly you'd still like to work on vehicles, but not limit yourself to diesel trucks. You might want to consider inspecting, repairing and maintaining both cars and light trucks. You can get started with as little as a high school diploma, though vocational or postsecondary training that lasts from six months to a year is considered good preparation for this job. In 2011, the median annual pay was approximately $36,000, according to the BLS. Employment growth was expected to be about as fast as the average for all occupations at around 17%.