Diesel mechanics may find employment in a number of different areas. Many work for dealers that sell semi trucks and other diesel powered equipment. About 19 percent of the country's 285,300 diesel mechanics work for trucking companies. Others maintain the buses and trucks of public transit companies, schools, or governments or service buses, trucks, and other diesel-powered equipment at automotive repair and maintenance shops, motor vehicle and parts wholesalers, or automotive equipment rental and leasing agencies. Diesel mechanics can find work all over the country, in both large and small cities. Job titles may range from bus maintenance technician to hydraulic system technician, clutch rebuilder, and heavy duty maintenance mechanic. A small number of diesel mechanics may find jobs in the railway and industrial sectors and in marine maintenance.
The best way to begin a career as a diesel mechanic is to enroll in a postsecondary training or apprenticeship program and obtain certification. Trade and technical schools, as well as apprenticeship programs, nearly always provide job placement assistance for their graduates. Such schools usually have contacts with local employers who need to hire well-trained people. Often, employers post job openings at accredited trade schools in their area.
Some students land their first jobs as a result of contacts made during internships. Intern programs sponsored by truck manufacturers or independent organizations provide students with opportunities to actually work with prospective employers. Internships can provide students with valuable contacts who will be able to recommend future employers once students have completed their classroom training. Many students may even be hired by the company for which they interned.
Typically the first step a mechanic must take to advance is to receive certification. Although certification is voluntary, it is a widely recognized standard of achievement for diesel mechanics and the way many advance. The more certification a mechanic has, the more his or her worth to an employer, and the higher he or she advances.
With today's complex diesel engine and truck components requiring hundreds of hours of study and practice to master, more employers prefer to hire certified mechanics. Certification assures the employer that the employee is skilled in the latest repair procedures and is familiar with the most current diesel technology. Those with good communication and planning skills may advance to shop supervisor or service manager at larger repair shops or companies that keep large fleets. Others with good business skills go into business for themselves and open their own shops or work as freelance mechanics. Some master mechanics may teach at technical and vocational schools or at community colleges.
Tips for Entry
Participate in a general auto maintenance workshop to get practice working on real cars and learn from instructors.
Read trade magazine such as Land Line (https://landline.media) and Overdrive (http://www.overdriveonline.com) to learn what's new in the trucking industry.
Work part time at an auto repair shop or dealership to become familiar with the work environment and watch mechanics on the job.
While in high school, take automotive and shop classes, as well as mathematics, English, and computer classes.
Have your shop teacher or school counselor help you schedule an information interview with an experienced diesel mechanic to learn more about the job.