Tip of the Week

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.

Diesel technicians

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.

Truck drivers

“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.

“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.”

— Brandpoint

Auto news

Nine out of 10 — 92 percent — of the more than 2,000 U.S. adults polled listed distracted driving as the number one factor in an increase in car accidents across the U.S. The survey was commissioned by Property Casualty Insurers and conducted online by Harris Poll.

Did you know

Many vehicles need extra attention in winter, especially when a bomb cyclone hits and temperatures drop. The non-profit Car Care Council offers six quick tips to help your vehicle perform at its best during cold weather months.

• Keep the gas tank at least half full; this decreases the chance of moisture forming in the gas lines and possibly freezing.

• Check the tire pressure, including the spare, as tires can lose pressure when temperatures drop. Consider special tires if snow and ice are a problem in your area.

• Have the exhaust system checked for carbon monoxide leaks, which can be especially dangerous during cold weather driving when windows are closed.

• Allow your car a little more time to warm up when temperatures are below freezing so that the oil in the engine and transmission circulate and get warm.

• Change to low-viscosity oil in winter as it will flow more easily between moving parts when it is cold. Drivers in sub-zero temperatures should drop their oil weight from 10-W30 to 5-W30 as thickened oil can make it hard to start the car.

• Consider using cold weather washer fluid and special winter windshield blades if you live in a place with especially harsh winter conditions.

• Drivers should stock an emergency kit with an ice scraper and snowbrush, jumper cables, flashlight, blanket, extra clothes, bottled water, dry food snacks and needed medication. The Car Care Council also recommends a thorough vehicle inspection by a trusted professional service technician as winter magnifies existing problems such as pings, hard starts, sluggish performance or rough idling.