The field of diesel mechanics and technicians includes truck and bus mechanics as well as diesel engine specialists. They are responsible for maintaining and repairing diesel engines for powering transportation equipment. Some diesel mechanics and technicians may work on mobile equipment and heavy vehicles that includes road graders, bulldozers, cranes, combines and farm tractors. Others may choose to specialize in boats, light trucks or passenger automobiles that are diesel powered.
Diesel Mechanics and Technicians Job Responsibilities
There is an increasing trend for diesel mechanics to need to be versatile and flexible enough to adapt to new technologies. Technicians must be able to handle a wide variety of repairs. Diesel maintenance has become increasingly more complex in the last few years, particularly with the inclusion of microprocessors which now regulate as well as manage engine timing and fuel injection. As a result of new emissions standards, many mechanics now must retrofit engines with emissions control systems in order to comply with regulations regarding pollution. Laptop computers are commonly used for diagnosing problems as well as adjusting engine functions.
Some technicians work for companies that maintain their own vehicles. Such technicians spend much of their time performing preventive maintenance. A routine maintenance check might include following a checklist that includes inspecting the steering mechanisms, brake systems and wheel bearings. After the inspection, the technician may adjust or repair parts that are not working properly or replace or remove parts that are not able to be fixed.
A variety of different tools may be used by diesel service technicians, including power tools like pneumatic wrenches that can quickly remove bolts, lathes, grinding machines, welding equipment and jacks and hoists. Hand tools are also commonly used, including wrenches, pliers and screwdrivers. A variety of different computerized testing equipment may also be used by diesel service technicians and mechanics in order to analyze the functions of electrical systems and engines. Power tools, which are often expensive, may be provided by employers however, most mechanics furnish their own hand tools.
Most diesel technicians and mechanics work areas that are ventilated and well-lighted; however, they may also be noisy and drafty. While many diesel technicians work indoors, they may sometimes need to repair vehicles on the jobsite or on the road. Mechanics and technicians must be able to lift heavy tools and parts, handle parts that are dirty and greasy and lie or stand in awkward positions. Minor bruises, cuts or burns are fairly common to this industry. Technicians and mechanics may work as part of a team or sometimes be assisted by a helper or apprentice for heavy work, which can include removing transmissions and engines.
Most diesel mechanics and technicians will work a standard 40 hour work week, although some work longer hours, especially if they are self-employed. Many shops have now expanded their hours to offer more convenience to customers. Some bus and truck firms provide repair and maintenance service 24/7.
Diesel Mechanics and Technicians Training and Education Requirements
Employers usually prefer to hire candidates who have graduated from a formal training program, although some mechanics and technicians may learn diesel engine repair through an on-the-job training program. Three to four years of experience is usually required in order to become a journey-level technician. High school courses in electronics, auto repair, math, English and physics can be important for entering this career.
Many colleges as well as vocational and trade schools offer diesel engine repair programs which last from six months to two years and will lead to a certificate of completion or associate degree. Some programs include approximately 30 hours per week of hands on equipment training.
While formal training is preferred, some mechanics and technicians learn their skills through on-the-job training. In the beginning they may be assigned such tasks as cleaning parts, driving vehicles in and out of the shop, fueling vehicles, etc. With experience, beginners may be promoted to trainee positions. After time, they may then begin to make minor repairs while improving their ability and competence level.
Diesel Mechanics and Technicians Salary and Wages
In 2008, the median hourly wages for truck and bus mechanics and diesel engine specialists were $18.94 per hour. Mechanics and technicians employed by independent repair shops and truck fleet dealers may receive a commission that is based on the labor cost which is charged to the customer. As a result, weekly earnings can fluctuate.*
*According to the BLS, http://www.bls.gov/oco/
Diesel mechanics and Technicians Certifications
National certification is not required to achieve employment in this field; however, many diesel mechanics and service technicians find that certification will improve the chance of advancing. Certification is offered by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. Diesel service technicians can become certified within specific areas such as brakes, drivetrains, electrical and electronic systems, suspension and steering, inspection and preventive maintenance. A technician is required to pass at least one ASE administered exam as well as present proof of two years of relevant work experience in order to become certified. All tests within a series must be passed to become a master technician. Technicians must be retested every five years to remain certified.
Diesel Mechanics and Technicians Professional Associations
Professional associations for diesel mechanics and technicians include:
- International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
- Amalgamated Transit Union
- Transport Workers Union of America