As the transportation industry continues to grow and baby boomers continue to retire, the need for trained diesel mechanics and truck drivers has never been greater. Job openings span the U.S., and many sit open while businesses feel the stress of a massive talent shortage.
For people seeking job security in a hands-on field, this could be the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. Whether you prefer the beauty of the open road or the puzzle of diagnosing complex mechanical equipment, each day offers a satisfying challenge, with the income potential to match.
Employment of diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 12 percent by 2024, faster than the average for all occupations, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The experts at Penske Truck Leasing and Penske Logistics say the growth demand is much higher in many parts of the country.
“Nearly 70 percent of all the freight tonnage moved in the U.S. goes on trucks,” notes the American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) website www.trucking.org. “Without the industry and our truck drivers, the economy would come to a standstill. To move 9.2 billion tons of freight annually requires nearly 3 million heavy-duty Class 8 trucks and over 3 million truck drivers.”
The trucking industry has a massive shortage of drivers that continues to grow as qualified drivers age and retire. The ATA estimates the current shortage at roughly 25,000. Industry insiders fear that number will grow in the coming years. Trained drivers ready to hit the road are in high demand. Employers highly value drivers with clean motor vehicle records who place an emphasis on safety.
Correcting transportation employment misconceptions
There are many misconceptions about being a truck driver and diesel mechanic.
For example, being a truck driver doesn’t necessarily mean you’re on the road for weeks on end. There are many opportunities if you prefer to stay close to home. About 80 percent of Penske Logistics’ 4,500 truck drivers return home every evening thanks to flexible shifts and delivery schedules.
Another common misconception is that being a diesel engine technician means turning wrenches all day. In reality, due to the electronic complexity of today’s diesel vehicles, mechanics must be able to troubleshoot computer systems and problem-solve electronic malfunctions. This aligns well with the mindset of the next generation of technicians who grew up with smartphones and social networks.
How to enter these in-demand fields
Post-secondary training in diesel engine repair or commercial truck driving will put you in high demand. Technical colleges from coast to coast offer quality degree programs. Remember, just because a student graduates from a particular school doesn’t mean he or she needs to remain in that area. Industry opportunities abound across the U.S.
What are some of the ways to become a truck driver? Community colleges and truck driver schools offer the needed training. For military veterans who operated heavy-duty vehicles in the armed forces, there is a path to convert that experience into a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
“We have a major need for entry-level technicians and truck drivers,” says Ron Schwartz, director of staffing services at Penske’s Reading, Pennsylvania, headquarters. “We can take entry-level technicians and give them the tools they need to continue advancing with Penske. The drivers that we hire need at least two years of related driving experience.”