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Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Experienced diesel service technicians and mechanics with leadership ability may advance to shop supervisor or service manager, and some open their own repair shops. Technicians and mechanics with sales ability sometimes become sales representatives.

Although national certification is not required for employment, many diesel engine technicians and mechanics find that it increases their ability to advance. Certification by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) is the recognized industry credential for diesel and other automotive service technicians and mechanics. Diesel service technicians may be certified in specific areas of truck repair, such as drivetrains, brakes, suspension and steering, electrical and electronic systems, or preventive maintenance and inspection. For certification in each area, a technician must pass one or more of the ASE-administered exams and present proof of 2 years of relevant work experience. To become what’s known as a master technician, all the tests in a given series must be passed. To remain certified, technicians must be retested every 5 years.

Diesel service technicians and mechanics held about 263,100 jobs in 2008. These workers were employed in almost every industry, particularly those that use trucks, buses, and equipment to haul, deliver, and transport materials, goods, and people. The largest employer, the truck transportation industry, employed about 17 percent of diesel service technicians and mechanics. About 8 percent were employed by automotive repair and maintenance facilities. The rest were employed throughout the economy, including construction, manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, and automotive leasing. About 6 percent were self-employed. Nearly every area of the country employs diesel service technicians and mechanics, although most work is found in towns and cities where trucking companies, bus lines, and other fleet owners have large operations.

Job Outlook
The number of jobs for diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow slower than the average for all occupations. Opportunities should be very good for people who complete formal training in diesel mechanics; applicants without formal training will face competition for jobs.

Job Growth
Employment of diesel service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow by 6 percent from 2008 to 2018, slower than the average for all occupations. The diesel engine, because of its durability and fuel efficiency, is the preferred engine for heavy-duty trucks, buses, and other large vehicles. As more freight is shipped across the country, additional trucks, and corresponding truck repairers, will be needed. Despite this trend, the increasing durability of new vehicles will limit the need for additional workers. Most new jobs will continue to be in the freight trucking and automotive repair and maintenance industries. Beyond the growth in the number of vehicles that need to be serviced, there will be additional demand for diesel engines mechanics to retrofit and modernize existing vehicles to comply with environmental regulations.

Due to higher fuel efficiency requirements for automakers, diesel engines are expected to be used in a small but increasing number of cars and light trucks. This will create additional jobs for diesel service technicians, specifically in the automotive repair and maintenance and automobile dealer industries.

People who enter diesel engine repair will find favorable opportunities, especially as the need to replace workers who retire increases over the next decade. Opportunities should be very good for people with strong technical skills and who complete formal training in diesel mechanics at community colleges or vocational schools. Applicants without formal training will face competition for jobs.

Median hourly wages of bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists, including incentive pay, were $18.94 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $15.25 and $23.58 an hour. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $12.50, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $28.41 an hour. Because many experienced technicians employed by truck fleet dealers and independent repair shops receive a commission related to the labor cost charged to the customer, weekly earnings depend on the amount of work completed. Beginners usually earn from 50 to 75 percent of the rate of skilled workers and receive increases as they become more skilled.

About 23 percent of diesel service technicians and mechanics are members of labor unions, including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers; the Amalgamated Transit Union; the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America; the Transport Workers Union of America; the Sheet Metal Workers' International Association; and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Labor unions may provide additional benefits for their members.

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