Truckers Are Struggling to Recruit Young Technicians, Mechanics

BN-KK816_truckm_TOP_20150922151914As trucks have become more advanced, transportations companies are increasingly in need of technicians with computer skills. But truck operators say negative perceptions of the industry are making it difficult to compete for tech-savvy talent.

“As a society we do not place a value on [this] type of profession,” said John Goralski, manager of fleet maintenance education for FedEx Freight.

Mr. Goralski said the company is having a hard time filling open positions for technicians that despite efforts to recruit at community colleges around the country. Commercial vehicle technicians usually need a minimum of a two-year associate degree in diesel technology, and many companies are looking to hire people who have studied computer technology or engineering.

“Class 8 tractors are very sophisticated right now,” said Mr. Goralski, who is in Orlando this week for the TMCSuperTech competition, where commercial vehicle technicians are competing for the title of “grand champion” in an event to promote the profession.

“The radar system on these tractors for collision mitigation, collision avoidance, is very similar to what’s on military and commercial aircrafts. There’s a minimum of eight computer systems right now on a Class 8 tractor,” he said. FedEx and other transportation and logistics companies are also researching robotics, automation and other advanced technologies for use in their trucks.

“It’s no longer just a matter of being able to turn a wrench and remove and replace a part,” said Doug White, vice president of fleet maintenance for armored car service Dunbar Armored. “It’s the ability to operate computers and do things like efficiency diagnostics.” The company has 80 mechanics who specialize in armored vehicles.

The evolution of truck maintenance underscores how companies are looking for more understanding of technology throughout their ranks, from senior management to the maintenance yard. Industry experts say an understanding of technology is increasingly important throughout the supply chain.

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