Diesel engines are indispensable to today’s economy and are at the heart of many commercial and industrial operations. They haul freight from country to country in large ocean-going vessels, or from state to state in diesel-powered semi-trucks or diesel-electric locomotives. They are used in heavy equipment for building roads, mining precious metals, constructing new buildings and generating power. With diesel engines so common, qualified diesel and heavy vehicle mechanics are always in demand and they can command a premium salary in some industries, with the proper training and experience, of course.
What Do Diesel & Heavy Equipment Mechanics Do?
Diesel and heavy equipment mechanics both diagnose and repair diesel engines and there is quite a bit of overlap between the two fields. Diesel mechanics work on nearly any diesel engine, including those in semi-trucks, buses, generators and heavy equipment. Heavy vehicle mechanics tend to focus on farm, construction and railway equipment, including machines like combines, backhoes, cranes, and locomotives, and they often have to diagnose and repair hydraulic systems, as well.
Both jobs require the mechanic to inspect the engine and the vehicle for problems, perform routine maintenance as recommended by the manufacturer, and diagnose and repair any engine problems according to standard procedures. Knowledge of mechanical, hydraulic and electrical systems is required, and the mechanic must be familiar with common diagnostic tools, such as computer-based diagnostic software, multimeters, compression gauges and battery-load testers.
How Much Do Diesel & Heavy Vehicle Mechanics Make?
According the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median average salary for a diesel mechanic as of May 2012 is $42,320, and the upper 10% make over $63,250 per year. Those employed as fleet mechanics or for government institutions may earn larger median salaries, up to $49,130 a year. For a heavy vehicle mechanic, the median salary is $43,820, and the top earners make over $62,960 per year. Specializations such as rail car repairer or mobile heavy vehicle mechanic can command a larger median salary of up to $48,500.
For both positions, the expected growth rate from 2012 to 2022 is about 9%, meaning that there will be greater than 21,600 new positions added for diesel mechanics and more than 16,200 new positions added for heavy vehicle mechanics during that time period. Industries such as freight transportation, farming, oil exploration, construction and mining all help to ensure that there will always be a need for diesel and heavy equipment mechanics.
How to Become a Diesel or Heavy Vehicle Mechanic
No formal training or licensing is typically required to become a diesel or heavy vehicle mechanic, and in the past, most mechanics started as assistants and learned gradually on the job or entered into an apprenticeship arrangement. Typically, this method requires at least 3 or 4 years of training before one can be considered qualified for an entry-level position as a mechanic.
Today, most employers prefer that diesel or heavy equipment mechanics have at least some formal education and hands-on experience before they are hired, due in part to changing industry standards and to the increasing technological complexity of today’s diesel engines.
Trade schools, technical schools, vocational schools and even some community colleges offer courses in diesel or heavy vehicle repair, which often combine classroom instruction with hands-on diagnostics and repair experience. Most programs can be completed in 1 to 2 years and offer a certificate of completion or diploma.
Other desirable certifications include the ASE certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service, which requires 2 years of field experience and offers certifications in a number of specialties, or any manufacturer-sponsored certifications that show proficiency in repairing certain brands or types of equipment, such as bulldozers and backhoes.
Take the Next Step at ATI
If you are interested in becoming a diesel or heavy vehicle mechanic, look no further than Advanced Technology Institute. Our Heavy Vehicle Technology with Service Management (AOS) program offers the perfect combination of classroom instruction with plenty of lab time, allowing you to get hands-on experience with real equipment and the latest in modern diagnostic tools and software. The program can be completed in about 75 weeks, or less than a year and a half, and offers flexible scheduling options. For more information, contact one of our friendly advisors at Advanced Technology Institute today.
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