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For the first time in history, the Top Industry Issues Report released by the American Transportation Research Institute cited “the shortage of diesel technicians” as a key concern for truckers – and there’s good reason for that. Diesel technicians are critical to the trucking industry; such heavy vehicles need regular maintenance to operate safely. However, within the next decade, there may not be enough of these professionals to keep up with demand. 

As of 2021, there were approximately 293,200 diesel mechanics in the United States, and between 2021 and 2031, we can expect a 4% increase in heavy diesel mechanic employment. However, while a 4% increase is rather standard for the US job market, roughly 28,500 openings in this position are projected every year for the next decade. That’s quite a few unfilled jobs, which could present an issue. With the rising demand for trucking services, we’re going to need a lot more technicians servicing our trucks. 

Below, we’ll explore the root causes of the heavy diesel mechanic shortage, what it means for those who rely on their services, and why we believe there’s still hope. 

But First, What Is A Heavy Diesel Mechanic?

Diesel mechanics are the individuals tasked with inspecting, repairing, and overhauling vehicles with diesel engines. While they typically work in repair shops, they’ll occasionally venture out to roadsides to provide services on-site, but regardless of where they’re working, it’s not an easy job. Diesel mechanics must have a deep knowledge of a vehicle’s electrical system, its engine, and all of the working parts that keep it running. This takes a specific set of skills; to be a heavy diesel mechanic, you need to be able to think on your feet, have strong analytical capabilities, and know the ins and outs of truck technology. 

Causes Of The Diesel Mechanic Shortage

There’s no single cause of the heavy diesel mechanic shortage – it’s a multifaceted issue. Between the wave of mechanics leaving the field and the declining trickle of mechanics entering, there simply aren’t enough people remaining to fill this vital role. 

The Upcoming Boom In Retirement 

Baby boomers currently make up 40% to 50% of active heavy diesel technicians, and while this isn’t necessarily an issue at the moment, it’s about to be a huge one. Between now and 2030, over 100,000 diesel mechanics will retire, and at the moment, there aren’t enough people looking to replace them. 

Retention Issues

Unfortunately, retirement isn’t the only reason mechanics are leaving the industry in hordes. According to a survey conducted by Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), 42% of new diesel technicians leave within their first two years of working in the trucking industry due to poor pay, difficult working conditions, and insufficient opportunities for professional development. 

A Lack Of New Recruits

Over the next ten years, the trucking industry will likely need around 200,000 new diesel mechanics to keep up with demand. The problem is, US schools are currently producing around 3,500 new technicians a year – nowhere near what we’re going to need. 

Impacts Of The Diesel Mechanic Shortage

Freight demand has been increasing since the Great Recession of 2008, but once the pandemic hit, it exploded. Consumers are shopping online more than ever before, and they expect their products to arrive in a fraction of the time they used to take. Accordingly, the American Trucking Association (ATA) estimates that freight volume will increase by 30% in the next ten years. With that increase in trucking demand will come an increase in maintenance needs.

If trucks can’t be serviced promptly, deliveries are going to be delayed. This means consumers won’t get their online orders when they expected to, stores will have to deal with unpredictable inventory shortages, and trucking companies will lose a good deal of revenue. The Associated Equipment Distributors found that the technician shortage could cost its members $2.4 billion in revenue each year, and on average, carriers are losing up to $1,200 a day with every heavy diesel mechanic position that goes unfilled.

What’s Being Done To Alleviate The Issue

While the diesel mechanic shortage is by no means a small problem, the outlook isn’t as grim as it may seem. Two major changes on the horizon might just solve this issue once and for all.

Companies Are Improving Pay And Benefits

Excluding those who leave the industry to retire, most diesel technicians exiting the profession do so because they feel underappreciated and underpaid by their employers. However, when they find a company that pays and treats them like the asset they are, they tend to stay. So, many companies have begun increasing the pay and benefits for their diesel technicians to make the job more appealing. In 2021, the median annual wage for a diesel technician was $48,690 per year, about $3,000 more than the median annual wage for all workers  ($45,760), and the hourly differences are even greater. While the average hourly earnings of US employees sat at $10.93 in 2022, the median hourly pay for a heavy diesel mechanic is over double that at $23.41 per hour. And that’s not all – the benefits have improved too. Most diesel mechanics now receive health insurance, get paid holiday leave, and have 401(k) and/or IRA opportunities through their employers. 

More Opportunities For Education

Improving pay and benefits can go a long way in retaining employees, but we also need to increase the number of mechanics entering the field. Luckily, schools are popping up across the nation to do exactly that. To start, we’re seeing more programs for middle and high school students to learn about diesel mechanics, allowing them to land a job right after graduation. We’re also seeing schooling for entry-level technicians to grow their skills and advance their careers. And finally, many trucking companies have developed apprenticeship and internship programs, allowing inexperienced individuals to learn on the job, lowering the barriers to entry. 

File And Pay Your HVUT With i2290

Solving the diesel technician shortage will likely take a good amount of time, but filing Form 2290 and paying your Heavy Vehicle Use Tax doesn’t have to. With i2290, all you have to do is answer a few questions about your business and your vehicles, and we’ll automatically calculate your taxes for you. The entire process takes just minutes, and you’ll receive an IRS-stamped Schedule 1 almost instantly. You can always view your tax documents online, making amendments is a breeze, and if you run into any trouble, our dedicated support staff is happy to be of service. So, are you ready for a better way to pay your trucking taxes? Create an account with i2290 today!

Special note: This article is for general purposes, and is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for tax, legal, investment, or accounting advice. The best way to ensure you’re properly filing for a refund or credit and paying appropriate taxes is by following IRS regulations and consulting with a tax professional.

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