Diesel May be Dying, But Trucks Aren’t
Today’s heavy duty transport trucks are really technological marvels. Equipped with onboard computer systems and even artificial intelligence (AI) they are becoming smarter and more advanced all the time. But if they’re so space-age smart, why are they still belching black smoke and particulate matter into an already polluted atmosphere? Diesel power, that’s why.
All those marvelous emission control devices attached to diesel engines aren’t enough to really stop greenhouse gases from endangering human lives, not to mention the life of planet earth. We’ve known for some time now that burning diesel fuel and gasoline must stop, if not for us then for our offspring.
And what’s to become of trucks and cars? Their gas and diesel power plants are dying and are being replaced by emission free electric motors driven by large, rechargeable battery packs. Trucks and cars will continue to be technological wonders with many of the same onboard systems.
Trucks Will Still Transport Goods
Electricity powered trucks will still require features like advanced driver assist systems, power steering, cooling and heating cabs, cooling systems for motors, alternators for charging batteries and running accessory systems, onboard computer systems, air brake components and systems, vehicle lights and windshield wipers, lubrication systems, and others. Trucks are not dying, but diesel power is.
Trucks will still have wheels and tires and will require regular maintenance. But facets of that maintenance will need to change with the conversion from diesel to power with zero emissions. And that means repair and maintenance shops will also need to evolve to be able to work with and amid the vehicle changes.
An underlying challenge for maintenance and repair shops is the ongoing shortage of qualified technicians. In North America techs are retiring in numbers greater than new techs are hiring on. This has been occurring for a number of years causing techs to be in short supply.
Compounding the issue is the fact that techs need to spend 2 years in a school to prepare them for a career in a shop. And this at a cost to them of thousands while earning little or no income. Is it any wonder that qualified technicians are in short supply with that barrier?
Another real cause of the shortage is the fact that most young people just don’t find a shop career appealing when so many other professions offer higher income and better opportunities for advancement.
Other Careers Offer More Appeal to Youth
Many find the lure of challenging robotics or computer programming to be sexier than heavy truck mechanical repair. And much cleaner too. Crawling under a large truck in winter with ice water dripping on you quickly loses its appeal.
Meanwhile, increasing freight demand requires more transport trucks which translates to more maintenance and repair technicians needed. It’s like a giant snowball rolling downhill and getting bigger as it goes.
Image is a Key Factor
Image is another barrier to entry into heavy truck repair careers. The general public still carries this picture of a grime covered grease monkey slugging large wheels and tires to make repairs. But the opposite is true in fact.
Truck technicians use electronics and laptops to diagnose truck repairs. Shop equipment and special tools are taking over the heavy lifting. White shop coats are in abundance in many repair facilities in North America. And trucks are generally kept cleaner today than in past times because fleets truck with pride in their equipment.
Trucking associations and schools need to be advertising these modern day clean conditions and specialized equipment to build up the image of technicians as a way of attracting young people to the trade. Sophisticated onboard systems continue to evolve in trucks of today and tomorrow.
Make it known that there is room for advancement in shops via tech specialization and management positions. And stress how rewarding accurately completing repairs result in great pride of accomplishment for techs and add to their value.
Focus on Retention
Finally, shop managers must work at retaining qualified technicians by establishing career paths for them and monitoring their progress and communicating it to them.