Becoming a Heavy Truck Mechanic: Job Description & Salary Info

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A heavy truck mechanic's median salary is around $43,630. Is it worth the training and education requirements? See job postings from real employers and realistic career info that can help you determine if becoming a heavy truck mechanic is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Heavy Truck Mechanic

Heavy truck mechanics work on vehicles powered by diesel engines. Here are some pros and cons of being a heavy truck mechanic that can help you decide if this profession is right for you.

Pros of Being a Heavy Truck Mechanic
High school diploma is the minimum education requirement*
Formal training can be completed in as little as six months to two years*
Stable work hours (typical 40 hours a week shift)*
National certifications available with as little as two years of experience*

Cons of Being a Heavy Truck Technician
Meager employment growth (projected nine percent job growth from 2012-2022)*
Minor injuries common due to nature of the job*
Heavy lifting and greasy work environments*
Potential exposure to contaminants such as gases and dusts**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics **O*NET OnLine.

Job Description, Career and Salary Info

As a heavy truck mechanic or diesel mechanic, some of your primary duties involve inspecting and repairing brakes, chassis, engines, steering mechanisms and wheel bearings, as well as electrical, fuel injection and exhaust systems. You perform preventative maintenance duties, like checking and changing oil, batteries, air filters and oil filters. To perform these inspections, repairs and maintenance tasks successfully, you must become comfortable with using tools like jacks and hoists, flame-cutting and welding machines, power wrenches and computerized testing devices used in vehicle diagnosis.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

With the increased use of vehicles powered by diesel engines, you'd think the market would be flooded with mechanic jobs; however, this is not the case. As of May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a fast as average employment growth of nine percent from 2012 to 2022 for diesel service engine technicians and mechanics. Job growth may be challenged due to the high performance and durability of diesel engines, which reduces the need for mechanical repairs. Despite these circumstances, the BLS reported that additional workers would be in demand to meet new environmental regulations.

In May 2014, most bus and truck mechanics, as well as diesel engine specialists earned between $28,130 and $65,350 per year. During this time, the largest workforce for this occupation was in the general freight trucking industry, while the federal executive branch employed the highest paid workers ($72,320 average annual salary).

What Are the Requirements?

The basic education requirement needed to gain an entry-level position in the heavy truck repair field is completion of high school courses, such as automotive repair, electronics, mathematics and physics, according to the BLS. By completing these courses, you can better understand how electrical circuits, gear ratios, friction and hydraulics play a role in truck mechanics, according to the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF). Other requirements that employers look for include being at least 18 years of age and in good physical health, possessing a valid state commercial driver license and having good mechanical and problem-resolution skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Although formal education is not required to work as a heavy truck mechanic, many job postings show that employers are looking for candidates with at least three years of experience. As noted by the BLS, you can gain this experience through on-the-job training. Listed are a few heavy truck mechanic job postings that provide you an overview of what experience and skills employers were seeking during February 2012:

  • An Augusta, GA, commercial truck company is looking for candidates with at least three years of experience performing repair and maintenance services on diesel or gasoline buses and medium or heavy-duty vehicles.
  • A private truck dealership in Charlotte, NC, seeks applicants with experience as a heavy duty or diesel truck technician, as well as good communication skills and can work evenings and weekends.
  • A Cumberland, MD, staffing agency wants to hire candidates with at least three years experience for a garbage truck technician/mechanic position to perform general and preventative maintenance.
  • A trucking company in Miami, FL, seeks a certified, bilingual (English/Spanish) medium/heavy truck mechanic with three years relevant experience to work on class 5-8 vehicles.

How to Stand Out

To stand out in this field, your first step is to complete formal training. By completing formal training, you can gain an upper hand in learning the latest technologies used in repairing diesel engine vehicles. You learn to understand various automotive and technical manuals that can help you in the repair process. In addition to gaining technical and mechanical skills, formal training can also improve your communication and interpersonal skills, so you can have better working relationships with colleagues and customers.

Get Certified

If you have at least two years of experience, you can further stand out by obtaining national certification. The premier industry certifications in this field are provided by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE). You can obtain certification in a specific series, such as the Truck Equipment Certification or the Medium-Heavy Truck Certification.

You can also obtain a master-level certification by passing multiple exams in a specific series. For example, the Medium-Heavy Truck Certification Tests include eight tests covering gasoline engines, diesel engines, drive trains, brakes, suspension, electronic systems, heating and maintenance. Master status can be earned in this series by passing tests 2-7.

Other Career Paths

Heavy Vehicle or Mobile Equipment Service Mechanic

If you still like the idea of working on heavy-duty vehicles, but want a career in the construction, agricultural or industrial industry, then training to become a heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technician or mechanic may be just what you're looking for. Jobs are available with on-the-job training; however, the outlook for this career is slightly higher with a projected growth of eight percent from 2008-2018. Career titles include mobile heavy equipment mechanic (except engine), farm equipment mechanic or rail car repairer. Depending on your area of specialty, you can work on vehicles, such as bulldozers, cranes, garden tractors or subway cars.

Aircraft or Avionics Equipment Mechanic

If you like large equipment, but don't know if trucks are the right fit, you can find careers in the aircraft or avionics equipment mechanic or service technician field. To work in this field, you generally need to complete formal education, as well as be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), as noted by the BLS. Though it takes some schooling, most workers have a higher average earning potential of about $34,000-$72,000, as of May 2010.

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    1. Penn Foster

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      • Career Diploma - Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Truck Maintenance
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Penn Foster

  • Career Diploma - Diesel Mechanics/Heavy Truck Maintenance

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