Get Fueled Up: Jobs in Diesel Mechanics and Technology

Those trucks don't just take care of themselves

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By Debra Auerbach

When driving down the freeway, you'll often pass trucks hauling various types of cargo. You may wonder what it takes to keep such high-powered machines running so they're able to deliver their cargo on time and intact, no matter the distance. While it's the driver who gets the truck from point A to point B, it's the job of diesel service technicians and mechanics to make sure the ride goes off without a hitch. If the idea of working behind the scenes to help power diesel machines sounds interesting to you, read on to learn more about a career in diesel mechanics and technology.

Working as a diesel service mechanic and technician

If a vehicle has a diesel engine, diesel service mechanics and technicians are called upon to keep it in tip top shape. These workers are responsible for inspecting, repairing or overhauling buses, trucks, bulldozers, cranes and anything else with a diesel engine.*

Some of their daily tasks may include:
  • Test driving vehicles to diagnose malfunctions and ensure that they are running smoothly
  • Reading and interpreting diagnostic test results from diagnostic equipment
  • Raising trucks, buses and heavy parts or equipment by using hydraulic jacks or hoists
  • Inspecting brake systems, steering mechanisms, transmissions, engines and other vehicle parts
  • Conducting routine maintenance, such as changing oil, checking batteries and lubricating equipment and parts
  • Repairing or replacing faulty parts and other mechanical or electrical equipment

Using technology

Today, diesel mechanics and technicians need to use more than their hands to fix these powerful machines. Their jobs are becoming increasingly complex as engines and other components are being powered and controlled by electronic systems. For example, fuel injection and engine timing systems use microprocessors to maximize fuel efficiency and minimize harmful emissions. Workers often use computers to diagnose problems and adjust engine functions. Those interested in entering this field will need to learn not only how to use hand and high-powered tools, but also computer systems that are essential to engine operation.

Entering the field

While many diesel mechanics and technicians learn their trade on the job, many employers require at least a high-school diploma or equivalent. In fact, according to Economic Modeling Specialists Intl., 49 percent of workers in this field have attained a high-school or similar level of education. Increasingly, employers are attracted to workers who also have postsecondary training in an area such as diesel engine repair.

Workers may also earn a certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Although obtaining a certification isn't required to work in this field, it increases a diesel mechanic's value to employers and clients. To earn certification, mechanics must have at least two years of work experience and pass one or more ASE exams. To remain certified, they must take and pass the test again every five years.

Diesel mechanics and technicians – by the numbers

Employment growth: The occupation is projected to grow steadily over the next couple of years.

According to EMSI, 239,666 workers are employed as bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists today. By 2016, the occupation will grow by 2.1 percent, to 244,664.

Earnings: EMSI notes that bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists earn a median hourly wage of $20.35 an hour.

Educational programs: In 2012, 9,294 people graduated with a degree in a program related to this occupation, according to EMSI. Some 8,634 graduated from a Diesel Mechanics Technology/Technician program, while 660 graduates took part in a Medium/Heavy Vehicle and Truck Technology/Technician program.

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*Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, unless otherwise noted.

Debra Auerbach is a writer for CareerBuilder.

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