Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians


Quick Facts: Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians
2017 Median Pay $49,440 per year 
$23.77 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education High school diploma or equivalent
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training Long-term on-the-job training
Number of Jobs, 2016 192,100
Job Outlook, 2016-26 8% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 14,900
 

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Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians Career, Salary, and Education Information

What Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians Do

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians, also called mechanics, inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and machinery used in construction, farming, rail transportation, and other industries.

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Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Duties of Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians typically do the following:

  • Consult equipment operating manuals, blueprints, and drawings

  • Perform scheduled maintenance, such as cleaning and lubricating parts

  • Diagnose and identify malfunctions, using computerized tools and equipment

  • Inspect, repair, and replace defective or worn parts, such as bearings, pistons, and gears

  • Overhaul and test major components, such as engines, hydraulic systems, and electrical systems

  • Disassemble and reassemble heavy equipment and components

  • Travel to worksites to repair large equipment, such as cranes

  • Maintain logs of equipment condition and work performed

Heavy vehicles and mobile equipment are critical to many industrial activities, including construction and railroad transportation. Various types of equipment, such as tractors, cranes, and bulldozers, are used to haul materials, till land, lift beams, and dig earth to pave the way for development and construction.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians repair and maintain engines, hydraulic systems, transmissions, and electrical systems of agricultural, industrial, construction, and rail equipment. They ensure the performance and safety of fuel lines, brakes, and other systems.

These service technicians use diagnostic computers and equipment to identify problems and make adjustments or repairs. For example, they may use an oscilloscope to observe the signals produced by electronic components. Service technicians also use many different power and machine tools, including pneumatic wrenches, lathes, and welding equipment. A pneumatic tool, such as an impact wrench, is a tool powered by compressed air.

Service technicians also use many different hand tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches, to work on small parts and in hard-to-reach areas. They generally purchase these tools over the course of their careers, often investing thousands of dollars in their inventory.

After identifying malfunctioning equipment, service technicians repair, replace, and recalibrate components such as hydraulic pumps and spark plugs. Doing this may involve disassembling and reassembling major equipment or making adjustments through an onboard computer program.

The following are examples of types of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians:

Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians service and repair farm equipment, such as tractors and harvesters. They also work on smaller consumer-grade lawn and garden tractors. Most work for dealer repair shops, where farmers increasingly send their equipment for maintenance.

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics repair and maintain construction and surface mining equipment, such as bulldozers, cranes, graders, and excavators. Most work for governments, equipment rental and leasing shops, and large construction and mining companies.

Rail car repairers specialize in servicing railroad locomotives, subway cars, and other rolling stock. They usually work for railroads, public and private transit companies, and railcar manufacturers.

Mechanics who work primarily on automobiles are described in the profile on automotive service technicians and mechanics.

Mechanics who work primarily on large trucks and buses are described in the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.

Mechanics who work primarily on motorboats, motorcycles, and small all-terrain vehicles are described in the profile on small engine mechanics.


Work Environment for Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians held about 192,100 jobs in 2016. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians was distributed as follows:

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines: 127,400

Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians: 42,500

Rail car repairers: 22,300

The largest employers of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians were as follows:

Farm and garden machinery and equipment merchant wholesalers: 13%

Transportation and warehousing: 11%

Government: 10%

Heavy and civil engineering construction: 7%

Rental and leasing services: 7%

Although many service technicians work indoors in repair shops, some service technicians travel to worksites to make repairs because it is often too expensive to transport heavy or mobile equipment to a shop. Generally, more experienced service technicians specialize in field service. These workers drive trucks that are specially equipped with replacement parts and tools, and they spend considerable time outdoors and often drive long distances.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians frequently lift heavy parts and tools, handle greasy and dirty equipment, and stand or lie in awkward positions.

Work Schedules

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common. Farm equipment mechanics’ work varies by time of the year. During busy planting and harvesting seasons, for example, mechanics often work six or seven 12-hour days per week. In the winter months, however, they may work less than full time.


How to Become a Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technician

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent. Because vehicle and equipment technology is increasingly sophisticated and computerized, some employers prefer to hire service technicians who have completed a formal training program at a postsecondary institution.

Education

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent. High school courses in automotive repair, electronics, physics, and welding provide a strong foundation for a service technician’s career. However, high school graduates often need further training to become fully qualified.

Completing a vocational or other postsecondary training program in diesel technology or heavy equipment mechanics is increasingly considered the best preparation for some entry-level positions. Offered by vocational schools and community colleges, these programs cover the basics of diagnostic techniques, electronics, and other related subjects. Each program may last 1 to 2 years and lead to a certificate of completion. Other programs, which lead to associate’s degrees, generally take 2 years to complete.

Training

Entry-level workers with no formal background in heavy vehicle repair often receive a few months of on-the-job training before they begin performing routine service tasks and making minor repairs. Trainees advance to more complex work as they show competence, and they usually become fully qualified after 3 to 4 years of work.

Service technicians who have completed a postsecondary training program in diesel technology or heavy equipment mechanics typically require less on-the-job training.

Many employers send new service technicians to training sessions conducted by equipment manufacturers. Training sessions may focus on particular components and technologies or particular types of equipment.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some manufacturers offer certification in specific repair methods or equipment. Although not required, certification can demonstrate a service technician’s competence and usually commands higher pay.

Important Qualities

Dexterity. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must perform many tasks, such as disassembling engine parts, connecting or attaching components, and using hand tools, with a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination.

Mechanical skills. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They must often disassemble major parts for repairs and be able to reassemble them.

Organizational skills. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must maintain accurate service records and parts inventories.

Physical strength. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must be able to lift and move heavy equipment, tools, and parts without risking injury.

Troubleshooting skills. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must be familiar with diagnostic equipment to find the source of malfunctions.


Salaries for Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

The median annual wage for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians was $49,440 in May 2017. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,200.

 

Median annual wages for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians in May 2017 were as follows:

Rail car repairers: $57,460

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines: $50,860

Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians: $39,340

In May 2017, the median annual wages for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Transportation and warehousing:  $56,060

Government: $55,820

Heavy and civil engineering construction: $48,700

Rental and leasing services: $47,440

Farm and garden machinery and equipment merchant wholesalers: $39,560

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common.

Farm equipment mechanics’ work varies by time of the year. During busy planting and harvesting seasons, for example, mechanics often work six or seven 12-hour days per week. In the winter months, however, they may work less than full time.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2016.


Job Outlook for Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Overall employment of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. As the stock of heavy vehicles and mobile equipment continues to increase, more service technicians will be needed to maintain them. Growth rates will vary by specialty.

Employment of farm equipment mechanics and service technicians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Demand for farm equipment repairers will be driven primarily by the need for agricultural products to feed a growing population. These products are produced with the use of increasingly complex farm equipment.

Employment of mobile heavy equipment mechanics is projected to grow 8 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Population and business growth will result in the construction of more houses, office buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures, creating a steady demand for mobile heavy equipment mechanics.

Employment of rail car repairers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Rail car repairers will continue to be needed to repair railcars used for freight shipping and transportation, as well as public transportation.

Job Prospects

Most job opportunities will come from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation. Those who have completed postsecondary education programs should enjoy the best job prospects. Those without postsecondary education or certification are likely to face stronger competition for entry-level jobs.

The majority of job openings are expected to be in sectors that sell, rent, or lease heavy vehicles and mobile equipment. These sectors employ a large proportion of service technicians. The construction and mining industries, which use a large amount of heavy equipment, are sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. As a result, job opportunities for service technicians in these sectors will vary with overall economic conditions.

Employment projections data for Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians, 2016-26

Employment, 2016: 192,100

Projected Employment, 2026: 207,000

Change, 2016-2026: +8%, +14,900


Careers Related to Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians

Aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft.

Automotive Body and Glass Repairers

Automotive body and glass repairers restore, refinish, and replace vehicle bodies and frames, windshields, and window glass.

Automotive Service Technicians and Mechanics

Automotive service technicians and mechanics, often called service technicians or service techs, inspect, maintain, and repair cars and light trucks.

Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics

Diesel service technicians (also known as diesel technicians) and mechanics inspect, repair, and overhaul buses and trucks, or maintain and repair any type of diesel engine.

Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and Millwrights

Industrial machinery mechanics and machinery maintenance workers maintain and repair factory equipment and other industrial machinery, such as conveying systems, production machinery, and packaging equipment. Millwrights install, dismantle, repair, reassemble, and move machinery in factories, power plants, and construction sites.

Small Engine Mechanics

Small engine mechanics inspect, service, and repair motorized power equipment. Mechanics often specialize in one type of equipment, such as motorcycles, motorboats, or outdoor power equipment.

Water Transportation Workers

Water transportation workers operate and maintain vessels that take cargo and people over water. The vessels travel to and from foreign ports across the ocean and to domestic ports along the coasts, across the Great Lakes, and along the country’s many inland waterways.

OccupationENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION2017 MEDIAN PAY
Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanics and Technicians$61,260
Automotive Body and Glass RepairersHigh school diploma or equivalent$40,580
Automotive Service Technicians and MechanicsPostsecondary nondegree award$39,550
Diesel Service Technicians and MechanicsHigh school diploma or equivalent$46,360
Industrial Machinery Mechanics, Machinery Maintenance Workers, and MillwrightsHigh school diploma or equivalent$50,440
Small Engine Mechanics$35,990
Water Transportation Workers$55,590

Citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians, on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/installation-maintenance-and-repair/heavy-vehicle-and-mobile-equipment-service-technicians.htm