The commercial vehicle industry is a dynamic employment sector, as technology becomes more sophisticated and the demand for repair technicians with ever more advanced skills keeps growing. Heavy vehicle manufacturers are pushing the limits of engineering, as they develop machines of higher quality, offering superior performance and reliability. As heavy vehicle manufacture grows in complexity, technicians will need more advanced diagnostic and maintenance abilities.
Are you fascinated by heavy equipment and have a yen to meet the challenge of working on these fascinating machines, a career as a heavy vehicle mechanic might be calling you.
What Does a Heavy Vehicle Mechanic Do?
Heavy vehicle mechanics troubleshoot, diagnose faults, and make repairs on large vehicles. Among the specific tasks they execute:
- Conduct examinations
- Replace parts and components
- Diagnose faults
- Trace complex system faults, replace and test components and units
- Inspect vehicles, conducting advanced tests, recording results
- Interface with manufacturers to familiarize themselves with new equipment.
- Participate in continuing education courses to stay abreast with new technology.
Increased Complexity of Heavy Equipment
The technology found in today’s heavy vehicles would be almost unrecognizable to the mechanic of a quarter century ago. These advances encompass safety features, vehicle electrical systems, air conditioning, emissions control, and telematics. Emerging technologies that are being developed in university think tanks will someday become the norm, such as the eventual shift to electrified vehicles that will occur as the world continues to move away from the use of fossil fuels.
Some of the innovations that will take place during the careers of today’s heavy vehicle mechanics:
- Drive-by-wire to wireless control, eliminating mechanical or electrical wire actuation, affecting brake, steering, and signal lights.
- Unitized performance for engine and drivetrain control, for greater fuel economy.
- Separate reporting systems and more driver interface, with multi-function instruments with heads-up display to simplify truck driver communication.
- Use of biofuels
- Dual-fuel engines
- Biodegradable and non-toxic greases and antifreeze
- High strength to weight structural changes
- GPS integration
- Transmission of diagnostics and preventative maintenance data
- Real-time routing efficiency to avoid traffic congestion; reporting of weather, weights, tolls, fuel consumption, driver performance, taxes in real time.
- Driver collision protection
- Forward lighting, to provide infinitely variable intensity, direction
- Aerodynamic features such as skirts, fairings, boat-tails and spoilers
Working with these innovations and performing maintenance on complex machinery will require a level of training and expertise not known to previous generations of heavy equipment mechanics, as they deal with sophisticated electronics and computerized systems that will increase efficiency, improve performance, and promote greater safety.
What Does it take to be a Heavy Vehicle Mechanic?
A heavy vehicle mechanic should have certain qualities to succeed, including good manual dexterity and eye-hand coordination. A good foundation in basic mathematics and communication skills in writing and speaking are helpful, as vehicle owners often need details concerning what was wrong with a vehicle and what steps were taken to repair the equipment. A knack for providing good customer service and the ability to work on a team are also valuable qualities, as are attentiveness to details, and the ability to follow instruction.
Beyond your natural talents, you will need some formal training — for instance, an associate degree in heavy vehicle technology could offer you the entree you need to get your foot in the door.
Enrolling in a good program can give you an opportunity to train on modern test equipment and specialized tools, as you gain hands-on experience in a realistic shop setting. Well-trained and experienced instructors will guide you as you develop competencies in logical diagnostic methods and repair procedures.
If you have aspirations to be a manager, your program should also provide you with service management coursework, so that you learn the basics of customer service, business management, communications, inventory management, reading business financial reports, and employee relations.
Students will need to acquire these skills as they progress in their coursework:
- Inspect brake systems, wheel bearings, steering mechanisms.
- Learn use of hand tools, including pressure gauges, precision instruments, screwdrivers, pliers; also power tools, including lathes, welding equipment, jacks, hoists, pneumatic wrenches.
- Adjust, reline brakes; align wheels; reassemble equipment.
- Examine, adjust protective guards, loose bolts, specified safety devices.
- Perform route maintenance, including changing oil, checking batteries, lubricating equipment and machinery.
Coursework might also include some of these:
- Vehicle electrical systems
- Environmental control systems
- Preventative maintenance inspections
- Four-cycle diesel engines
- Brakes and suspension
- Steering and alignment
- Hydraulic systems
The student can add courses in communications, service management, safety, and occupational safety if interested in pursuing a career in the heavy vehicle industry with a service management component.
Does a career as a heavy vehicle mechanic interest you? Consider enrolling in the Associate of Occupational Science Degree program in Heavy Vehicle Technology with Service Management at Advanced Technology Institute. For more information, connect with ATI today and speak with one of our admissions counselors.