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Diesel Mechanic and Technician Career, Job and Training Information

Diesel Mechanic Career and Job Highlights

  • High relative wages can be found in a diesel service career, which offers satisfaction coming from challenging and highly skilled work.
  • Those with training in formal programs should expect good job opportunities in the industry.
  • Diesel service technicians and mechanics receive recognition through national certification.

Diesel Mechanic and Technician Career Overview

Trucks and buses are powered by diesel engines due to their superior power and durability. Even in vehicles such as pickups and work trucks, diesel engines are gaining popularity.

Heavy trucks, buses, and locomotives are powered by diesel engines which are repaired by diesel service technicians and mechanics, commonly called bus and truck mechanics and diesel engine specialists. Other forms of heavy mobile equipment are often worked on by diesel mechanics, such as bulldozers, cranes, road graders, farm tractors, and combines. A few mechanics work on passenger vehicles, small trucks, and boats that have diesel engines.

Organizations that service their own vehicles use their technicians to carryout preventive measures on the vehicle so that the equipment functions safely. Parts that are worn or damaged are cared for by these technicians to prevent expensive malfunctions. When doing a maintenance check, technicians use a checklist to ensure that the brakes, steering devices, wheel bearings, and other important parts are examined. If a part is not working, technicians will fix the part or replace it with a new one.

As the wide variety of customer needs increases, mechanics must be flexible and adaptable to those needs and the problems new technology presents before them. Many technicians will have to do all sorts of repair jobs, from working on the electrical system to making major engine repairs. The diesel engine is controlled now more than ever by electronic components, which contribute to the complexity of diesel maintenance. As an example, to improve the engine’s efficiency microprocessors are used to control fuel timing. Technicians working in modern shops typically utilize hand-held computers to diagnose problems and make adjustments to the different engine functions. Continuous learning is important to the success of a technician in order to keep up with new procedures and complex materials.

Many different tools are used by technicians, among the many are power tools like pneumatic wrenches, machine tools, like lathes and grinding machines, to rebuild brakes, welding and flame-cutting equipment, to fix exhaust systems; and jacks and hoists, to lift and move large parts. Technicians also use everyday hand tools like pliers, wrenches and screwdrivers for difficult-to-access parts. Computerized diagnostic equipment is also utilized by technicians to identify and locate problems in electrical systems and engines.

Shop supervisors or managers normally give out directions to technicians. Supervisors and managers typically have a lot of experience and will aid others in identifying malfunctions and ensuring quality standards are upheld. Heavy work, like replacing an engine or transmission, can be done in teams with other technicians or apprentices.

Diesel Mechanic Training and Job Qualifications

Though job experience may qualify some applicants for a job as a diesel service technician, most recommend attending diesel engine training program first. Graduates of these formal programs are preferred by employers, as these workers receive a jump start in training and can climb the ladder of employment rapidly to the journey level.

Diesel repair training can be received through lots of community colleges and trade and vocational schools. These programs lead to certification or an associate degree, and typically last from 6 to 24 months. The amount of hands-on experience provided with equipment varies from program to programs, with some allocating 30 hours a week on equipment and others offering more in class instruction. Training grants a person the necessary understanding of the newest diesel technology as well as how to repair vehicles and use equipment common in the industry. Training also helps one to develop skills in interpretation of technical manuals and communication with colleagues and customers. Schools don’t just teach technicians how to repair vehicles, they also delve into the social skills needed like communication skills, customer service as well as teach students basic principles of physics, and logical thought. Training programs and employers work together so that teachers have the right equipment and tools and understand the newest methods being used. As a result of this close relationship employers are able to offer jobs directly to graduates of the program.

While employers definitely prefer graduates of formal training, some workers will learn and enhance their skills by working. Novices lacking repair skills begin with small tasks like cleaning parts, fueling and lubricating vehicles, and moving vehicles in and out of the shop. As experienced is gained and positions open up, beginners will move up to trainee positions. In a few repair shops, novices with some experience in automotive repair will begin as trainee technicians.

After just a couple of months of working, trainees might take on routine service requests and do minor repairs. As their ability and competency improves, these trainees will move on to harder jobs. Once the repair of a diesel engine is mastered, a technician will learn the relationship between parts like the brakes, transmission, and electrical system. Typically one can become a journey-level diesel technician after only 3 to 4 years of experience. As always, completing a training program helps facilitate promotions.

When employers must fill beginning level jobs, they look for applicants 18 years or older that are physically fit and possess some mechanical ability and are skilled in solving problems. Almost every employer makes graduation of high school a prerequisite for employment. Applicants well versed in electronics, automotive repair, mathematics, English, and physics will have a good foundation for employment in diesel repair. A state commercial driver’s license is required for technicians to test-drive vehicles they have repaired like buses or trucks on public roadways. Depending on the employer, some applicants may have to pass a drug test as part of the application process. Any working experience gained through automotive repair, the Armed Forces, or as a hobby can prove to be of worth to the applicant as well.

Manufacturers and vendors often hold training courses, and employers will frequently send their experienced workers to these functions to learn the newest technology and repair methods. Manuals and instructions which describe repair methods and standards are constantly updated and provided to technicians. A technician must stay on top of his area of expertise and the changes made therein by reading and understanding these manuals.

The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) awards certification for service technicians and mechanics, and although it is only voluntary, this certification is the standard for the industry. Certification can be received in many areas, including certification as a master truck technician, or in areas of truck repair like gasoline engines, drive trains, brakes, suspension and steering, electrical and electronic systems, or preventive maintenance and inspection.

A technician must successfully complete at least one ASE exam as well prove they have relevant work experience of 2 years of more to receive certification in the desired area. A year of work experience can be supplanted by 2 years of formal training in a high school, community college, or trade or vocational school. Technicians must pass the test once every five years to maintain certification. Constant testing helps ensure that workers stay up to date on the ever evolving technology. Diesel service technicians and mechanics can also to be ASE certified as a master school bus technicians or master truck equipment technician.

Nothing is more important to a mechanic than their hand tools. Typically workers have their own tools, and the more experienced workers have spent thousands of dollars on them. However, it is important to note that the most expensive tools, like power tools, computerized engine analyzers and so are provided by employers while mechanics obtain tools with experience.

Those with leadership qualities and experience may be promoted to shop supervisor or service manager. Some workers with skills in sales will become sales reps, while others may opt to open their own service shop.

Diesel Mechanic and Technician Job and Employment Opportunities

Employment in the diesel service and repair industry is projected to grow on pace with the average for all occupations through the year 2012. In addition to the creation of more jobs in the industry, other positions will open up to replace retirees or those who change occupations.

More technicians and mechanics will be needed since the popularity of freight transportation via truck is on the rise. More and more trucks will be required to keep up with the demands of companies desiring to ship product via trucks. Trucks also help transport goods between legs of a longer journey via rail or air. Diesel engines are gaining popularity and are increasingly used in buses and trucks of every size thanks in part to their reliability and their value as they compare to gasoline engines. Also, the ever increasing fleet of school buses must be serviced by diesel service technicians.

Employment in diesel service is attractive thanks to competitive wages and the challenges encountered doing highly skilled work. Good opportunities are available to those who attend training programs in diesel mechanics at community or junior colleges, or technical and vocational schools. Those who lack training will find it harder to get an entry-level-job.

Work should be stable as the movement in the economy has little effect on the diesel service industry. It is possible that workers are laid off and few new hires are made if there is an economic downturn.