Compensated training, salary/benefits and shop accessories must be considered when it comes recruiting and retaining invaluable techs. The need is not going away, so companies must adjust to stay ahead of the competition.
By Caleb Ostrander

The most identified shortage in trucking points the finger at those behind the wheel, but for all the talk about the need for drivers, diesel technicians keep the big rigs running—and they are vitally important to the industry.

A shortage of technicians can lead to trucks sitting in a shop, costing money and cutting into revenue streams. Photo courtesy of Shutterstiock.

Fleets are already short mechanics, and that demand is not going away. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of diesel technicians employed was expected to grow 9 percent from 2016 to 2026, but with baby boomers retiring and fewer fresh faces to replace them, fleets have to make jobs as attractive as possible to recruit and retain technicians.

Competitive Benefits
The vast majority of diesel techs not only work full time jobs, but also deal with overtime, nights and weekends on a regular basis. In addition, some shops offer 24-hour roadside assistance, so their techs are at the mercy of the elements.

Fleets must start showing diesel mechanics they are as valuable as the driver. To recruit and retain technicians, companies must offer premium wages, full benefits and other amenities to separate themselves from the competition.

The salaries for the top-earning techs continue to climb, with the upper echelon taking home more than $50,000 per year. Government jobs pay the most, with an annual salary of more than $54,000, according to the BLS. 401(k) or IRA accounts, health insurance and paid vacation time are nearly standard across the industry. Again, if a fleet is not offering a competitive wage as well as these other benefits, they are starting behind the 8-ball.

The tire work bench allows techs to keep tools in proximity to their work area.
Photo courtesy of Minimizer.

Most companies not only offer on-the-job training and certification, but they are also now seeking out applicants as opposed to the other way around. Education career fairs are now a staple for some fleets, where making that in-person connection goes a long way in helping shed the stigma of being a ‘grease monkey.’

The Right Tools of the Trade
When it comes to on-the-job satisfaction, fleets must provide the right tools for the trade. This goes well beyond offering the necessary wrenches, impact drivers and computer monitors, but includes items that may not come standard in the shop.

Some techs are skilled at sharpening drill bits, but for those that are not, an automatic sharpener comes in handy. Constantly inspecting oil leaks? Offer techs a borescope, which has a camera that can infiltrate tiny areas, making diagnosing the issue a breeze. And, of course, any tech can tell you the value in a cordless impact. They can operate anywhere without having to worry about running an extension cord clear across the shop.

It really is a matter of convenience. Diesel mechanics must have a space to set their tools when they are working on the truck, and while metal tool benches work okay, their size and weight can be prohibitive. To offer the best possible workstation, techs need tools in close proximity. Walking several steps away, much less halfway across the shop, is not only inconvenient, but also a much less productive way to work.

Companies should provide portable workbenches that can be placed on or near the truck. Whether working under the hood or on the rear axle, these types of tool caddies provide a space for techs to place and hold all the necessary equipment.

Let’s face it—techs work hard. Really hard.The best companies keep their workers comfortable on the job, offering temperature-controlled environments. Sometimes, as is the case during roadside calls, this is out of a person’s control, but in the shop, fleets should ensure the temperature is comfortable, if not slightly cool. Shops tend to heat up quickly, given the amount of warm bodies, heavy machinery, and small space involved. Offering techs their own space heaters in the winter or fans in the summer can go a long way in making your tech feel appreciated.

Stay Ahead of the Competition
No longer can fleets afford to ignore the demand for diesel mechanics. Compensated training, salary/benefits and shop accessories must be considered when it comes to recruiting and retaining invaluable techs. The need is not going away, so companies must adjust to stay ahead of the competition. | WA

Caleb Ostrander is a Marketing Specialist for Minimizer. He can be reached at (800) 248-3855, ext. 8184 or e-mail [email protected].