When you were a kid, did you love to play with those giant-sized toy bulldozers and trucks? Getting down and dirty was fun, and even today you may enjoy watching earthmovers at a construction site or backhoes digging trenches. A career in heavy equipment repair may be perfect for you.
Farm machinery, bulldozers, cranes, and railroad cars are all examples of heavy vehicles that require maintenance and repair. These vehicles often weigh hundreds of tons and require specialized facilities for major servicing. They may also require routine maintenance in the field, which could be a remote location in the mountains, forest, or desert.
Heavy vehicles can be complex. It can be accurately said that today’s heavy equipment combines brains and brawn. Many types of heavy equipment use hydraulics to raise and lower movable parts, and for steering and braking. They may have complex electrical systems, including onboard computers for control as well as systems diagnosis. Typically they have diesel engines, and these are generally serviced by specialized diesel mechanics who need to know how to use computer diagnostic equipment.
Servicing makes the difference. Heavy vehicles represent a big investment and require meticulous maintenance. When a million-dollar crawler crane stops working on a job site, every minute counts until it is back on line. That’s why a well-trained and experienced service person is a vital member of the team.
Heavy vehicle service technicians and mechanics are called upon to repair and maintain electrical systems, engines and hydraulics, and transmissions. They perform routine maintenance checks and repair brake, fuel, and transmission systems to ensure the safety, optimum performance, and reliability of the equipment. They may diagnose electrical problems, disassemble and repair undercarriages and caterpillar-track assemblies, and weld broken equipment frames and structural parts.
Technicians know how to use tools. They use machine tools, like lathes and grinding machines; power tools, such as pneumatic wrenches; welding equipment; and jacks and hoists to move parts and vehicles. They also use common hand tools to work on small parts, and computerized testing equipment to analyze problems in electrical and hydraulic systems. Service technicians often must use their equipment out in the field under difficult conditions.
The job outlook is excellent. Even in the current economy, the field is growing. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that in the current decade from 2008 through 2018, “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.” It is predicted that over 15,000 new jobs will be added in this employment category during this period.
Education is key for success. Advanced careers in the field require knowledge of mathematics, physics, mechanical engineering, and computers. Heavy and mobile equipment mechanics increasingly need certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. But for anyone with a high school diploma or GED who is determined to work hard and get ahead, there is hope! Many technical career schools offer certificate or associate degree programs that can prepare you for certification. The schools generally provide both classroom instruction and hands-on training on real vehicles. Many are associated with specific manufacturers so that, for instance, you can get certified to work on Caterpillar scrapers or Cummings diesels. Some offer hybrid programs, where students can complete the classroom portion online, then go to the school’s campus for practical training. In many cases you can get the training you need even while you hold down your present dead-end job or provide care for your family.
Career and technical schools will be glad to send free information about their programs. Many offer financial aid for those who qualify, and even career planning assistance. Contact a technical school today and you may be prepared for a new career sooner than you think.