Need For Diesel Mechanics Expected To Grow

By Staff
September 29, 2009

As more baby boomers retire and auto manufacturers increasingly turn to greener diesel engines, demand for diesel mechanics is expected to rise.

Transport Topics reports that industry experts are predicting a severe diesel mechanic shortage. In 2004, the Department of Labor estimated there were 606,000 diesel technicians--which includes farm equipment, heavy-duty and bus and truck mechanics. The DOL predicted that 205,000 more diesel mechanics would be needed by 2014 to fill new positions or replace existing ones.

"We're only graduating about 35,000 technicians, total, in this country a year," explained Tony Molla, vice president of communications for the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence in Leesburg, Virginia. "That includes auto, collision and diesel." He estimated that only about 10 percent of those graduates are being trained as diesel technicians.

"In the truck market, I think it is already too late," he added. "We're looking at a significant shortfall."

Wyoming Technical Institute, located in Laramie, Wyoming, graduates about 600 diesel technicians a year from its training program, which takes about nine months.

"Some graduates will hit the ground running and will never need to shadow someone, but there are other students who need to shadow someone to learn the ropes of a particular company," noted Chad Enyeart, coordinator of the diesel/advanced diesel program at the trade school.

Diesel-powered engines are more efficient and durable than those that burn gasoline, and are standard in trucks, locomotives and buses. But demand for knowledgeable diesel mechanics could likely rise even more as auto manufacturers, searching for green fuel-efficient solutions, increasingly turn to diesel in smaller passenger vehicles and pickups.

The Mother Nature Network reports, for example, that some are viewing diesel technology as the new "hybrid-killer"--and points to the new Volkswagon Jetta TDI as an example. The latter, a diesel car, was named "Green Car of the Year." And Edmunds Auto Observer reported earlier this year that diesel-engine vehicles are a far better deal than hybrid-electric vehicles, in part because diesel prices have dropped significantly. That and federal tax credits, say the article "make the diesel-powered vehicle actually cheaper than a comparable gasoline-engine variant of the same model."

But despite the current interest in diesel-engine vehicles, a significant number of diesel mechanics are close to retirement, reports Transportation Topics.

"It is always hard to find good diesel mechanics," said Dick Fazzio, service manager for Mountain West Truck Center in Salt Lake City, "and the reason is that people like myself are dinosaurs."

Enyeart predicted that once the economy rebounds, 40 to 50 percent of technicians are likely to retire within two years. "If we don't have a large number of auto and diesel technicians," he noted, "the cost of repair is going to go up."

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