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“Oh no, we’re out of technicians.”

According to an article published on CCJ News, that was the title of one of the discussions during the 2016 Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) Annual Meeting. Three years later in 2019, that undeniable truth rings true — there is still a truck technician shortage facing the commercial trucking industry, and more specifically a diesel technician shortage.

As a result, many commercial truck tire dealers and fleets who perform in-house service may experience difficulty in filling or retaining their technician positions. If you’re in one of those camps and are interested in learning more details about the current shortage, finding out what you can do to protect your service team, or discovering steps to slow this trend within the entire industry, keep reading! This article will cover everything you need to be in the know.

Serious Stats to Consider: The Diesel Technician Shortage

To give you an idea of just how serious this shortage is, we’ve compiled some telling statistics.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2022 the commercial trucking sector will need approximately 67,000 highly trained technicians and 75,000 more diesel engine professionals. In other words, three years from now, more than 100,000 truck technician/specialist jobs will be open and in need of filling.

Unfortunately, diesel mechanic shortages paired with a lack of truck technicians in general paints a grim picture for the future of properly maintained commercial trucks and a more efficient trucking industry. Luckily, American Trucking Association has already started the conversation around this growing issue.

Addressing the Root of the Truck Technician Shortage

Many trucking publications are highlighting the important role education plays in the diesel mechanic and technician shortage. WheelTime’s George Arrant said in an interview that a big part of the problem stems from technicians graduating without the skills they need to be effective in a shop. He encouraged more of an open dialogue between industry experts and schools catering to technician focused curriculum to ensure that students graduating with an intent to become service technicians will have the skills to be effective right away.

An article published on Truckinginfo highlights three key steps in addressing the truck technician: “Start early, grow your own, and ramp up retention.”

The idea of starting early addresses the importance of reaching out to and cultivating relationships with young students at pivotal points in their career path. By introducing students to the career paths of commercial truck technician or diesel engine professional, a general interest and potential passion for those careers could grow, stimulating the skilled labor force needed to impact the shortage.

The concept of “growing your own” focuses on the value of creating your own training programs. If you offer entry-level positions that create a pipeline to tech roles, you may be able to remedy the technician shortage your service department is feeling. Not only does this give your technicians a steady professional growth plan, it allows you to curate a service team dedicated to your values and practices.  While this will not have an immediate impact on the shortage you feel in your service team today, it will provide stability for your future.

Lastly, ramping up retention illuminates the importance of creating positive work experiences for your technicians, including programs where they can grow their skills.  Investing in your technicians while they’re on your team ensures they feel valued, and it can save you a significant investment in the long run; studies show it could cost you 90 to 200 percent of that technician’s annual salary just to find a replacement.

Help Erase the Truck Technician Stigma

As demand for technicians soars higher and higher, it’s more important than ever to erase the negative associations with being a mechanic or technician. Technicians and mechanics are puzzle-solving, safety-ensuring, innovation-focused, motor-skilled specialists capable of saving lives and creating better trucking experiences for everyone involved.  And for those technicians with certifications specific to manufacturers or equipment, the high demand means steady careers with significant reimbursement.

We know that, and you know that — but we need to be sending that message to parents and young students, too. Whenever you can, mentor kids to get them excited about the possibilities of joining the commercial trucking industry!

Ways to Manage Your Shortage Struggles

While you may be experiencing a shortage of trained technicians on your service teams, you can actively allocate your most trained technicians to the work that will drive the greatest ROI and increase your productivity.  Focus on putting your highly skilled technicians on the tedious and more expensive jobs.  For the less experienced technicians, adapt your processes to accommodate their skills.

One way to accommodate your technicians is to switch up your balance methods.  Balancing the commercial truck tires which come through your service shops on a static balance machine takes a lot of time and precision to address a tire’s radial imbalance.  And if you’re focused on delivering the best possible balance for your customers, you may take extra steps to try and eliminate both the radial and lateral runout, requiring extra skills and more expensive machinery to simulate the road forces those tires may experience once they leave the shop.

IMI offers a solution to your challenge: IMI FLEXX.  IMI FLEXX is the only adaptive internal tire balancing solution available on the market that provides your customers an added benefit in balancing: it actively responds to changes in load, speed, and road conditions while constantly balancing the wheel-end assembly.  IMI FLEXX uses Dual Force technology to address a tire’s uniformity, radial, and lateral imbalances – along with the tangential and road forces exerted on a tire during its lifetime.  And the best news for you and your service techs: it’s a drop-in bag.  The internal tire balancing solution IMI FLEXX eliminates the need for you to use your veteran, skilled technicians on a time-consuming balance machine, allowing you to be more productive in your shops and deliver a better tire balance solution to your customers.

At IMI, we understand the unique challenges facing commercial tire dealers and fleets performing their own service work – and we’re here to help.  We can work with your teams to understand what bottlenecks you feel in your service departments and how our solutions might take some of that struggle out of the mix.  Our passion is finding solutions to challenges to make you as productive and profitable as possible.  Want to talk about how we can help?  Reach out of one of our knowledgeable representatives today!