Working on Diesel Truck Engines
Big rig trucks have run on diesel engines since the 1930s. The engines are more fuel-efficient than gasoline engines, and they last a lot longer. Diesel engines are built differently than gas engines, and they must be maintained by trained diesel mechanics. Understanding how to repair a diesel engine is not just a career to itself: happy is the driver who can repair his own rig.
He will save loads of time and money that would otherwise be spent in a repair shop.
Diesel mechanics work for freight haulers or in independent shops. They use technology to diagnose problems with engines and perform routine preventive maintenance. Most mechanics work regular shifts and do not travel away from home on a regular basis. In a busy shop with a high demand, different sets of mechanics could work different shifts to get as much work done in a day as possible. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 23 percent of all diesel mechanics are members of a labor union, including the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the Transport Workers Union of America.
Diesel Mechanic Pay
The BLS reports that the average diesel mechanic makes just over $18/hour, including incentives. Mechanics in an independently owned shop often make a commission based on the cost of the repairs they do. Pay increases with experience, and the highest-paid bracket of diesel mechanics make a little more than $28/hour.
There are three paths to becoming a diesel mechanic.
- You can take industrial education classes through your high school.
- If you have already graduated from high school, you can enroll in a diesel mechanic program at a community college.
- You can get a job as an apprentice working with an experienced diesel mechanic who will show you the ropes. Apprentice jobs are hard to come by, and it helps if you know someone who is willing to work with you.
Because diesel mechanics use sophisticated technology to diagnose engine problems, it helps to be able to work with computers and get along with technology as well as with customers.
If gas prices remain high for a long period of time, car makers in the US may adjust the vehicles they are bringing to market to include more fuel-efficient diesel engines. Having more diesel vehicles on the road will increase the demand - and the pay - for diesel mechanics.
Did you know:
- Diesel mechanics earn about as much as truck drivers do.
- A skilled diesel technician can work on cars, tractors and even railroad engines.
The BLS expects that the growth in the diesel mechanic job market will be slower than average for all jobs, but that people who graduate from formal training programs will have better job opportunities than those who do not.
The longer you work as a diesel mechanic, the more complex jobs you will be assigned to do. If you are inclined to move into management, you could be a supervisor or run a shop. Some mechanics become truck drivers - most shops require mechanics to have a CDL so they can road-test the rigs - the experience fixing engines can save a lot of time on the road when you need to make a small repair. You can also start your own repair shop, if you enjoy independence and you can accept the risk of striking out on your own.
Diesel mechanics are in demand in all the transportation industries, including that elusive segment: freight forwarding.
- Graduates of formal training programs are expected to have the best diesel mechanic job prospects.
- Technology is a critical part of the diesel mechanic's job.
- Many shops require mechanics to have a CDL.