Diesel mechanics in high demand throughout state
Owners of diesel service centers in northern Nevada say journey-level diesel mechanics are getting increasingly hard to find, and a manager at Elko County’s largest service center says it’s a struggle to find even entry-level diesel mechanics.
Dynamic Diesel and its sister company, American Truck and Trailer Repair, employ 14 diesel mechanics at two Sparks repair facilities. Co-owner Malinda Campbell says that with Dynamic Diesel’s upcoming expansion plans the company could employ several more top-level diesel mechanics if she could find them.
“We are always looking if a hot-dog mechanic walks through my door I am gong to snatch him up,” Campbell says.
Part of the problem, she says, is that many younger people simply don’t want to do work where they dirty their hands no matter what the pay is. Dynamic Diesel and ATTR don’t employ any mechanics making under $24 an hour, she says, but filling vacant positions for big-rig and standard diesel mechanics still is a challenge.
Another problem, Campbell says, is getting the word out about job vacancies. Mechanics often aren’t searching for work on career-oriented job sites.
“Monster.com is useless to me,” she says. “For the most part, tradesmen don’t go online to fill out applications. It is a constant battle for us to find good quality diesel mechanics.”
It’s even harder for businesses located in counties that serve the booming mining industry.
Chuck Faul, operations manager for the Elko branch of Cummins Rocky Mountain, says its difficult to compete against the region’s large mining companies for a limited pool of qualified diesel repair technicians and the mine operators also happen to be Cummins Rocky Mountain’s largest customers.
The company typically performs highly specialized on-site repairs to massive haul trucks, scoop shovels, loaders, drill rigs and large power-generation equipment. Its shop work is oriented to highway and recreational vehicles with Cummins turbo-diesel engines a staple of Dodge Ram trucks.
“Customers in our areas are looking to Cummins Rocky Mountain to provide a service they can’t do, or they may not have expertise on our engines,” Faul says. “Mine-site employees typically have more of a general repair background. We specialize on Cummins engines, and we are really good at what we do.”
Cummins Rocky Mountain employs 13 diesel servicemen at its Elko location, but Faul says he’s got enough work to keep as many as 18 repairmen going fulltime. Wages also are higher in Elko than other regions, Faul says, but he still has a tough time recruiting to the area due to prospective employee’s lack of specialization coupled with Elko’s remote location and lack of available housing.
“We need more skilled technicians, but they are not out there,” Faul says. “We are competitive in what we pay, but we just aren’t finding the technicians that can do high-horsepower engines. That is our biggest need.”
Cummins Rocky Mountain, which has 15 locations and is headquartered in Denver, has started looking outside regions where its service centers are located and also has begun tapping other industries, such as agriculture and automotive, to find qualified diesel technicians.
Faul’s also hired several green graduates from schools such as Universal Technical Institute and Wyotech and begun pairing them with journey-level mechanics. Both schools have good diesel technician programs, Faul says, but new graduates simply don’t have the skills necessary to go to mine sites and perform critical repair work.
New graduates work better as in-shop technicians, he says, because other employees can help them through a repair while they build their skill base. With the right tutelage, new graduates can thrive rather than struggle in the field, he says.
“In the field, they have to have the experience to make decisions,” he says.
Clarice Faddis, shop manager for COD Diesel in Fallon, says the small shop has a hard time finding qualified diesel technicians with a strong work ethic a theme echoed by Steve Brown, owner Dice Truck Trailer and Tire Repair in Winnemucca.
Faddis says much of the work at COD Diesel is geared toward stationary engines for power generations, such as the motors used to irrigate Fallon-area farms.
“It’s hard finding the right person who wants to excel at their job,” Faddis says. “We don’t get a whole lot of applications in, and we do have a pretty good interview process and check references.”
Many of the diesel repairmen in Churchill County, Faddis notes, work on-site out of service trucks at regional farms.
Brown, who has run Dice Truck Trailer and Tire repair since 1996, says most of the applicants that have applied at his shop are handy with a wrench but lack the certification and skills required for diesel service and repair. The shop specializes in big-rig trucks and trailers as well as fleet and on-highway vehicles.
“It’s really hard to find people who know what they are doing,” he says. “There are a hundred diesel mechanics, but in all reality there are only a handful that are actually schooled.
“I need a guy that can go out today and make money,” Brown adds. “They problem is a lot of guys claim to be diesel mechanics, but they have no training.”
General diesel technicians are not required to earn certification from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence, but most employers prefer to hire technicians who’ve earned ASE accreditation and certification as proof of competency.
On top of launching its $10 million SLVR Fund — a nod to Nevada’s moniker as the Silver State — RNOX intends to bring its tech accelerator to Las Vegas in mid-2021, with eyes toward Salt Lake City or Boise as a third location.