Trucking is big business in the U.S., and it’s only going to get bigger. Industry projections say that more freight will move each year and freight revenues will increase by almost 75 percent in less than the next decade. All those trucks on the road need more than fuel to keep them running. They also need skilled technicians. If you prefer working with your hands to sitting behind a desk, you’re a good candidate to be a diesel tech. With the right training, you’ll have good job security with a respectable heavy duty diesel mechanic salary. Plus, your earnings have the potential to increase as you gain experience.
What You’ll Do
Diesel techs spend their days working on the big rigs. They perform preventive maintenance, troubleshoot problems, and repair trucks and heavy machinery. Different shops run things differently. However, in general, semi mechanics interact with customers, consult technical manuals and charts to perform maintenance and repairs, and perform diagnostic tests. You’ll use a range of power tools and even computerized equipment to complete those tasks, though you might not do all of them every day. On the other hand, there are days you’ll do it all and then some to earn your heavy duty diesel mechanic salary. For instance, you may work on an engine in the morning, then replace the brakes on a different truck in the afternoon while also performing PMs on a couple of other semis.
What is the Average Heavy Duty Diesel Mechanic Salary?
Various factors can affect how much a diesel tech makes. Things that can influence a heavy duty diesel mechanic salary include:
- where you work
- if you specialize in certain types of vehicles, equipment, or specific kinds of repairs
Also, there are different ways to get paid. Some shops put techs on an annual salary and some pay hourly. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the median annual salary for diesel mechanics is $47,350, while the median hourly rate is $22.76 per hour.
Additionally, some shops offer efficiency bonuses to their hourly mechanics. For example, you might get hired on at $25 per hour. In addition to that, you’ll earn a $100 bonus for getting more jobs done each week or month. It means multitasking on your part. But it also means less downtime during your day and a bigger paycheck to boot.
You don’t necessarily need a formal education to become a diesel tech. The minimum shop managers look for is a high school degree or the equivalent. Heavy duty repair is still an industry where you can learn on the job. You can start out as a tech’s assistant and move up from there. It’s helpful, though, to have taken courses in math, electronics, and auto repair.
Even so, the industry is getting more competitive. That means even though college degrees and certifications aren’t required to work on semis, more and more shop managers and owners are looking for techs who do have those credentials. Additionally, many prefer hiring techs who have an ASE certification. A certification through the National Institute for Automotive Excellence is evidence of a tech’s competence and skill. Employers often pay a higher heavy duty diesel mechanic salary for techs who have an ASE certificate, or who at least have gone through diesel tech programs offered in colleges and trade schools. The average annual salary for an ASE Master Diesel Tech is $51,984.
Years of Experience Affect Salary
Experience is another factor that affects heavy duty diesel tech salary. Many times, shop managers would rather hire someone with years of experience over someone fresh out of school. The years you’ve spent working on heavy duty equipment is like an education in itself, and you’ll have hands-on knowledge and skills to offer potential employers.
In general, Payscale reports that having over 10 years of experience can earn you $10,000 to $14,000 more per year:
- A diesel tech with 0 to 5 years experience earns $42,000 to $48,000/year.
- Ones with 5 to 10 years experience earn $48,000 to $52,000/year.
- Heavy duty mechanics with 10 to 20 years experience earns $52,000 to $56,000/year.
Diesel Mechanic Career Growth
So, what does all that education and experience info mean? Basically, there’s room for career growth no matter where you’re starting. If you have no experience or certifications, you might have a harder time finding a job and you’ll likely have to settle for a lower heavy duty diesel mechanic salary. However, once you do land a job, you’ll start gaining experience. And, as you hone your skills and become more efficient, you’ll earn bonuses as well as raises along the way.
You can always boost your chances of earning those raises or getting hired on at a higher paying shop by increasing your value to employers. That’s done by getting a certification through ASE or another online course. You could even choose to get a specialty certification so you can work on boat engines, construction equipment, aircraft, or farm machinery.
Getting your CDL is another plus you can offer employers. Diesel techs routinely need to test drive trucks as part of the diagnostic process and after working on them. Without a CDL, you won’t even be able to move a semi from one side of the street to the other, let alone take it out on the highway to get a realistic idea of how it’s running. The bottom line is that any extra experience, licenses, or certifications you can offer opens doors to make more money.
Becoming a shop owner is one more way your career as a diesel mechanic can grow. Whether you open your own shop or buy an existing one, a shop owner’s salary is higher than a mechanic’s. Plus, it’s an investment in your future. You can pass a successful shop on to your heirs or sell it as a packaged business to fund your retirement.
Diesel Mechanic Job Growth Trend
As we mentioned earlier, the freight industry affects the heavy duty repair industry. And, since trucking is expected to continue to grow, so is the need for semi techs. The BLS projects diesel mechanic employment to grow 9 percent by 2026, increasing the number of jobs from 278,800 in 2016 to 304,600 in that 10-year span. That means job security for an experienced tech with skills. Plus, there will be excellent opportunities to earn a good heavy duty diesel mechanic salary for those who get certified over the next few years.
A Diesel Tech’s Typical Day
There’s usually so much going on in a heavy duty repair shop, it’s hard to outline a “typical” day. However, you’ll likely start with a few job orders. In many cases, you’ll have to figure out what needs fixing based on the customer’s description of the problem. You’ll inspect the vehicle using a standard checklist, but you may also have to use equipment for diagnosing issues if basic troubleshooting fails. You’ll routinely have to use lifts to get under the trucks, might have to install a turbo, change and rotate tires, put in requests for parts you need for your jobs, and you’ll perform countless PMs.
A lot of work goes into earning a heavy duty diesel mechanic salary, but every task on a tech’s To-Do List is made easier with Fullbay. It’s the Cloud-based software that simplifies customer service orders, job assignment, estimates, parts ordering, inventory, and invoicing. It even helps you track PMs for your customers and keeps a thorough history on the vehicles you work on. Fill in the form below to get a feel for how Fullbay can help with your job.