New trucks will redefine the role of service technicians

It’s no secret that a technician shortage is plaguing the fleet transportation industry about as much as the driver shortage. According to the American Trucking Associations, there is a driver deficit of roughly 60,800 today, and that number could top 160,000 over the next decade. For technicians, the need is just as great. According to the Department of Labor, approximately 67,000 technicians are needed to replace retired workers, and 75,000 new mechanics will need to be added to meet demand by 2022.

It’s no secret that a technician shortage is plaguing the fleet transportation industry about as much as the driver shortage. According to the American Trucking Associations, there is a driver deficit of roughly 60,800 today, and that number could top 160,000 over the next decade. For technicians, the need is just as great. According to the Department of Labor, approximately 67,000 technicians are needed to replace retired workers, and 75,000 new mechanics will need to be added to meet demand by 2022.

Driving much of this demand for new and more drivers is the “Amazon Effect,” through which consumers now purchase nearly everything online, meaning more shipments by trucks of all sizes. The U.S. Department of Transportation expects that by 2040, annual domestic freight volume will increase by 45% to 29 billion tons, with most of that volume hauled by a truck. That means more equipment that will need to be serviced and maintained, and thus more technicians will be required.

Advanced trucks will require new technician skill sets

The trucks of tomorrow—many of which have already started to appear on the roads today—will be more technically sophisticated, with advanced safety systems and data analytics handling operations and routing functionality. 

These advancements mean that while technicians will be necessary for traditional maintenance tasks such as oil changes, brakes and lights repairs, they will also serve as vehicle engineers to handle all of the maintenance for this technology. 

Some of this technology will be inside the cab, and while this isn’t critical to keeping the wheels turning and the engine running, it is crucial to the broader operation. New devices mounted in trucks’ cabs, such as advanced GPS technology or handheld routing devices, plan and direct the best delivery routes, considering traffic and weather conditions. Also, sensors in the truck’s engine, trailer, tires and fuel tank monitor performance and can alert drivers of any potential issues that may delay a delivery. Additionally, electronic logging devices (ELDs) are now federally mandated inside every truck. All of this technology will need to be maintained and repaired, and to do so, technicians will need skillsets beyond turning a wrench.

New technology is also found in many advanced safety systems, such as collision mitigation and avoidance. What’s more, fleets and service providers are beginning to embrace and utilize radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology in their tire maintenance strategy. They are also using handheld devices to streamline and standardize the preventative maintenance process, which can be customizable to each customer’s requirements. Future technicians will even need to understand the Internet of Things (IoT) and how trucks adapt and leverage this technology to their benefit.

Understanding proper VMRS coding

Even the way technicians report and administer these repairs will come with a heightened awareness of technology and applications. Each vehicle’s technology-intensive makeup will make them more challenging to service and repair. As such, technicians will need to rely more on the proper input of VMRS codes. If this input is not done correctly, it makes it even more difficult to scrutinize and audit the data on the back-end to make smarter decisions for fleet operations, cost controls and predictive measures for future truck specifying. Improper coding can erode a fleet organization’s bottom line profits over time.

To read more on VMRS coding and its potential, click here.

Technician recruitment should focus on newer truck technology

Recruitment strategies should be designed to showcase and redefine what it means to be a technician in the fleet transportation industry. It’s no longer about dirty rags and greasy tools, but instead moving toward analytics, computers and even engineering. In fact, some maintenance procedures on trucks will soon involve downloading remote software updates similar to how we download updates to a smart phone today. 

Having adequately trained technicians on staff is paramount to running an efficient transportation fleet. Their time is critical and having improperly trained technicians can also eat into the bottom line.

Brett Wilkie is senior director of fleet services for Fleet Advantage.