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Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians and Mechanics - What They Do


How to Advance (Advancement)
There is no one certification that is recognized throughout the various industries that employ heavy vehicle mobile equipment service technicians. Rather, graduation or completion of an accredited postsecondary program in heavy vehicle repair is seen as the best credential for employees to have. Manufacturers also offer certificates in specific repairs or working with particular equipment. Such credentials allow employees to take on more responsibilities and advance faster.

Experienced technicians may advance to field service jobs, where they have a greater opportunity to tackle problems independently and earn additional pay. Field positions may require a commercial driver's license and a clean driving record. Technicians with administrative ability may become shop supervisors or service managers. Some technicians open their own repair shops or invest in a franchise.

Employment
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics held about 190,700 jobs in 2008. Approximately 136,300 were mobile heavy equipment mechanics, 31,200 were farm equipment mechanics, and 23,100 were railcar repairers.

About 29 percent were employed by machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers. About 13 percent worked in construction, primarily for specialty trade contractors and highway, street, and bridge construction companies; another 11 percent were employed by Federal, State, and local governments. Other service technicians worked in mining; rail transportation; and commercial and industrial machinery and equipment rental, leasing, and repair. A small number repaired equipment for machinery and railroad rolling stock manufacturers. About 6 percent of service technicians were self-employed.

Nearly every area of the country employs heavy and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics, although most work in towns and cities where equipment dealers, equipment rental and leasing companies, and construction companies have repair facilities.

Job Outlook
The number of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations. Those who have completed postsecondary training programs should find excellent opportunities, as employers report difficulty finding candidates with this training to fill available positions. Those without a formal background in diesel engine or heavy vehicle repair will face competition.

Job Growth
Employment of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics is expected to grow by 8 percent through the year 2018, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand will be driven primarily by growth in the use of heavy equipment in the construction industry, although growth will be slower in this industry than in recent years. In addition, the increasing sophistication of the technology used in heavy vehicles and mechanics should lead to greater demand for technicians and mechanics with specialized skills.

Growth in other industries that use heavy equipment, such as energy exploration and mining, will also contribute to the need for new workers. The need to feed a growing population, and the increased use of agriculture products to make biofuels, will lead to additional farm mechanic jobs, while the continued expansion of railways for freight shipping and transportation will lead to new openings for railcar repairers. Many new mobile heavy equipment and farm equipment mechanic positions are expected be in firms that sell, rent, or lease such machines, as their repair services make up an important part of their business. Employment of mobile heavy equipment mechanics is expected to grow by 9 percent from 2008-18, while jobs for farm equipment mechanics and rail car repairers are expected to increase by 7 percent.

Opportunities for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics should be excellent for those who have completed formal training programs in diesel or heavy equipment mechanics. Employers report difficulty finding candidates with formal postsecondary training to fill available service technician positions. People without formal training are expected to encounter growing difficulty entering these jobs. Most job openings for mobile, rail, and farm equipment technicians will arise from the need to replace experienced repairers who retire or change occupations.

Construction and mining operations, which use large numbers of heavy vehicles and mobile equipment, are particularly sensitive to changes in the level of economic activity. While the increased use of such equipment increases the need for periodic service and repair, heavy and mobile equipment may be idle during downturns. As a result, opportunities for service technicians who work on construction and mining equipment may fluctuate with the cyclical nature of these industries. In addition, opportunities for farm equipment mechanics are seasonal and are best in warmer months.

Earnings
Median hourly wages of mobile heavy equipment mechanics were $20.59 in May 2008, higher than the $18.60 per hour median for all installation, maintenance, and repair occupations. The middle 50 percent earned between $16.71 and $24.85. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $13.61, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30.57.

Median hourly wages of farm equipment mechanics were $15.32 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $12.54 and $18.61. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $10.28, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $22.37. In machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers, the industry employing the largest number of farm equipment mechanics, median wages were $15.64.

Median hourly wages of railcar repairers were $21.48 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $16.83 and $25.84. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $13.49, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $30.23. Median hourly wages were $23.82 in rail transportation, the industry employing the largest number of railcar repairers.

About 23 percent of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics are members of unions, including the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Members may enjoy job benefits in addition to what employers provide.

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Academic Programs of Interest

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