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The Other Labor Shortage: Truck Technicians

There has been plenty of coverage about the shortage of truck drivers, some even discuss the reasons and potential solutions. But none of those discuss the OTHER labor shortage in the trucking industry... the shortage of truck repair technicians.  

Today's trucks are more complex than ever, and computer diagnostics and the skill to interpret them are more important than ever. Today's trucks with emission control equipment have over 2300 fault codes to diagnose, compared to trucks before 2007 which has typically about 350 fault codes. Yet somehow, diesel technician (they prefer that word over "mechanic") still conjures the image of a grizzled overweight guy in dirty coveralls, chewing tobacco, with enough black oil seeped under his fingernails that no amount of cleanser can wash out. 

Every major trucking firm is scrambling to find technicians. Penske expects to hire 2000 technicians in 2018 (it has 9000 in 2017). Ryder always have openings for 150-200 technicians (it has 5900 as of December 2017) according to article in December 2017.  Furthermore, maintenance costs are rising fast due to this labor shortage. According to ATRI (American Transportation Research Institute), maintenance costs jumped 51% from 2008 to 2015. This can only go up, even when driverless trucks hit the roads.  

The shortage of technicians and rising maintenance costs will push the smaller firms, without their own mechanics, or lacking some of the more high-tech tools in their shops, into tighter margins and rely more on existing repair shops with multiple repair bays and the right equipment. 

There are no proposed solutions to this shortage in sight. According to the California Department of Education, only 551 schools, in 2016-2017 school year, offer automotive shop classes, out of 4495 total high schools (public and private), as of 2017 in California. That leaves community colleges and vocational/technical colleges to pick up the slack. So far, that is not happening, and that is not helping the industry at all.