Volvo Trucks is expanding trade school partnerships In Ohio, Florida and Texas next year to offset a worsening shortage of diesel technicians.
Volvo-certified instructors will teach Diesel Advanced Technology Education at Jones Technical Institute in Jacksonville, Fla.; the University of Northwestern Ohio in Lima, Ohio; and Western Technical College in El Paso, Tex., the truck maker said Wednesday.
The shortage of diesel technicians is a growing problem for the trucking industry. It ranked No. 13 on a list of 100 critical issues in an October 2017 survey by the American Transportation Research Institute. The shortage of drivers was the top issue cited.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects trucking will require 25,000 new diesel engine specialists by 2026. The U.S. has 260,800 diesel specialists. Half of them earn more than $48,000 a year. ASTI survey respondents said expanding collaboration is the best way to address the shortage.
Graduates of the nine-month program get an associate’s degree in diesel mechanics. Training includes electrical and electronic systems, software and engine diagnosis and repair, chassis components and Volvo powertrains. As graduates, they can start working in a Volvo Trucks service department.
“The DATE program provides students with the education and skills needed to excel in a career that’s increasingly in demand,” said Matt Flynn, director of Volvo Trucks Academy.
Industrywide demand for technicians is raising shipping costs, cutting into dealer profits and lowering customer satisfaction. The National Automobile Dealers Association 2017 Dealership Workforce Study said 34 percent of service technicians left their jobs in 2016. It was among the highest turnover of any positions. Total employee turnover in truck dealerships was 27 percent.
NADA said many senior technicians shun learning new skills such as repairs related to emissions and performance standards. That leaves it to entry-level technicians to get the training to keep up with technology changes.
Volvo has trained 300 diesel technicians since its Automotive Service Excellence-accredited program began in 2012 with Laramie, Wyo.-based WyoTech. Volvo Trucks spokesman Brandon Borgna said the company was helping offset the shortage and meeting its own needs. WyoTech offers training in Laramie; Blairsville, Pa.; and Jacksonville, Fla. Last October, WyoTech committed $1 million a year in scholarships to recruit students. Half the money targets military veterans.
Penske Truck Leasing has relationships with 100 technical and trade schools and community colleges, said Gregg Mangione, the company’s senior vice president of maintenance. They include Universal Technical Institute based in Avondale, Ariz., WyoTech, and Lincoln Tech in Chicago. Penske shares technician success stories on social media as a recruitment tool.
“It has been challenging to get talent in the door, and we place a strong emphasis on retention,” Mangione said. “Penske is using in-house training to develop our tech workforce. We continue to develop new leaders by identifying techs who demonstrate leadership ability.”