In one sense, it’s a good problem to have. As the economy expands, growth in freight volume and demand for carrying capacity--driven even higher by the need to replenish pandemic-starved supply chains--has meant the need for more trucks.
On the other hand, while the highly publicized driver shortage continues to be a challenge for trucking companies, at the same time the industry is facing an ongoing shortage of technicians needed to keep a rising number of vehicles on the road.
As recently as five years ago, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected the need for 67,000 more diesel service technicians by 2024 to replace retiring workers, and that by 2022 as many as 75,000 new mechanics would be needed. In 2019, BLS forecasted an increase in employment of technicians across a range of diesel equipment industries of just three percent through 2029.
Based on that data, growth in the ranks of technicians will be insufficient to meet the higher demand. But rising to the occasion, the trucking industry is finding new and innovative ways to recruit and retain the help it needs. They have also realized the value of recognizing technicians for the vital role they play in business success and the nation’s economic prosperity.
National Technician Appreciation Week: A Well-Deserved Tribute
To recognize the professional technicians who keep the trucking industry rolling, the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and its Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) are sponsoring the second annual National Technician Appreciation Week (NTAW) from September 19-24, 2021. Its purpose is to celebrate the hard work and commitment of the industry’s technicians and help attract prospective employees to careers in trucking.
The demands on service operations have also become greater with the advent of increasingly advanced vehicle and shop technologies. Along with mechanical aptitude, today’s technicians need to have strong diagnostics skills and specialized training. To recruit and retain those types of technicians, collaborative efforts between industry and education continue to expand.
Collaboration is Key to Attracting New Workers
WrenchWay, an organization working to advance the issues of technicians, has launched School Connect, a free tool that makes it easier for schools to connect with shops and request resources they need to attract students to technician training programs. Shops can also use the platform to post things they are willing to help provide, such as speakers, tools and tours. Notifications can include internships and apprenticeships.
An extensive program involving industry partners aimed at combating the technician shortage is in place at Montana State University–Northern. The school, for example, hosts career fairs where industry partners can talk to students about opportunities. Partners have also offered scholarships and summer jobs for MSU-Northern students, and even contracts to cover the cost of school in exchange for employment. Industry involvement also includes assisting with curriculum development.
The Association of Diesel Specialists (ADS), a trade association for independent repair shops and manufacturers and distributors, as well as schools offering programs in diesel mechanic training, encourages the development of technicians to meet current and future industry needs. Similarly, the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), which provides accreditation services in a variety of technician specialties, is using its ASE Education Foundation to actively work with partners such as technical schools to implement internships and apprenticeships.
That type of activity, for many in the industry, is seen as especially vital for reaching out to high school students about technician career opportunities. While instructors and career counselors can help, they note, there is a greater impact when the outreach effort comes from an employer.
Across the US there are diesel technician schools in all states. Many of those are listed in the Diesel Mechanic Guide which provides information and resources about schools and requirements by state, salaries and a job search portal.
Techs Continue to Play a Crucial Part in Maintenance
Since its initial introduction in the 19th century, the diesel engine continues to play a vital and growing role in the economy. At the same time, the long-term increase in the use of trucks to haul freight will continue to drive the need to have highly trained technicians with far more extensive training and advanced skills.
Ultimately, trucks are inextricably linked with our future, and trucking technicians who keep trucks moving continue to play one of the most critical roles in the industry. Without them, cost-effective performance, productivity, efficiency and safety would not be possible, and the higher level of uptime needed to haul a growing volume of freight with a rising number of vehicles cannot be achieved.
From celebrating trucking’s technicians to attracting skilled talent, an industrywide approach can help secure talented and dedicated individuals.
Together, fleets, service providers, manufacturers, associations and educational institutions have a shared interest in not only acknowledging the extraordinary efforts of these dedicated professionals, but also in working to attract individuals to one of the most in-demand careers in the transportation industry.
We celebrate National Technicians Appreciation Week. In what has become an annual event, we salute the people who keep assets--and by extension, America--running.