It’s Not Just About Truck Drivers

75,000 New Mechanics Must Be Added to Meet Additional Demand by 2022

Truck Mechanic Shortage

Technicians have a virtually limitless ceiling when it comes to income because of things such as shift options and flat-rate pay plans.

It seems as if every article, blog and podcast about the driver shortage—should they be made physical—would seemingly extend from coast to coast. According to the American Transportation Research Institute’s report, “Critical Issues in the Trucking Industry—2018,” the driver shortage is the number one concern of respondents, followed by the Hours of Service rules and then driver retention, clearly spurred by the driver shortage. The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate was number four.

Even with those issues though, more than 33 million trucks are on the road, moving about 71% of the nation’s freight by weight, according to the American Trucking Associations. Here’s a question: Who keeps those trucks in safe, efficient operating condition? Of course, the answer is mechanics and technicians. But, as with drivers, fleets and logistics providers also are dealing with a shortage of mechanics.

“We have all felt the consequences of the skilled labor shortages in the over-the-road transportation industry,” Andy Dishner, COO of Tennessee-based Konexial, said. “Not only does this affect the fleet owners and managers, but it has the potential to dramatically alter the economic equation.”

For one thing, freight rates have risen this year as carriers struggle with the driver shortage, Dishner noted, but that’s not all.

“It’s not just behind the wheel, it’s under the hood as well—the adverse effect of a shortage of mechanics and support roles,” he said. “Not having a driver to man the truck is a priority issue for sure, but a driver simply can’t do his job if his rig is down without someone to fix it.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) says fewer workers are entering vocational education programs as Baby Boomers age and retire. When it comes to diesel service technicians and mechanics, the Bureau reports, the field is projected to grow by 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also said 67,000 technicians will be needed to replace retired workers, and 75,000 new mechanics must be added to meet additional demand by 2022.

For many years, there’s been a societal push that stresses “without a college degree, you won’t have a career.” Jennifer Maher, CEO at TechForce Foundation, an organization that raises youth awareness around technician careers, agreed that it’s an issue even for students who are interested in the trades. Barry Hochfelder  (Article first appeared in Supply Chain Dive 7/30/2109)

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