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What Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians Do About this section

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians
Mechanics inspect, repair, and replace defective or worn parts.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians, also called mechanics, inspect, maintain, and repair vehicles and machinery used in construction, farming, rail transportation, and other industries.

Duties

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians typically do the following:

  • Consult equipment operating manuals, blueprints, and drawings
  • Perform scheduled maintenance, such as cleaning and lubricating parts
  • Diagnose and identify malfunctions, using computerized tools and equipment
  • Inspect, repair, and replace defective or worn parts, such as bearings, pistons, and gears
  • Overhaul and test major components, such as engines, hydraulic systems, and electrical systems
  • Disassemble and reassemble heavy equipment and components
  • Travel to worksites to repair large equipment, such as cranes
  • Maintain logs of equipment condition and work performed

Heavy vehicles and mobile equipment are critical to many industrial activities, including construction and railroad transportation. Various types of equipment, such as tractors, cranes, and bulldozers, are used to haul materials, till land, lift beams, and dig earth to pave the way for development and construction.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians repair and maintain engines, hydraulic systems, transmissions, and electrical systems of agricultural, industrial, construction, and rail equipment. They ensure the performance and safety of fuel lines, brakes, and other systems.

These service technicians use diagnostic computers and equipment to identify problems and make adjustments or repairs. For example, they may use an oscilloscope to observe the signals produced by electronic components. Service technicians also use many different power and machine tools, including pneumatic wrenches, lathes, and welding equipment. A pneumatic tool, such as an impact wrench, is a tool powered by compressed air.

Service technicians also use many different hand tools, such as screwdrivers, pliers, and wrenches, to work on small parts and in hard-to-reach areas. They generally purchase these tools over the course of their careers, often investing thousands of dollars in their inventory.

After identifying malfunctioning equipment, service technicians repair, replace, and recalibrate components such as hydraulic pumps and spark plugs. Doing this may involve disassembling and reassembling major equipment or making adjustments through an onboard computer program.

The following are examples of types of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians:

Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians service and repair farm equipment, such as tractors and harvesters. They also work on smaller consumer-grade lawn and garden tractors. Most work for dealer repair shops, where farmers increasingly send their equipment for maintenance.

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics repair and maintain construction and surface mining equipment, such as bulldozers, cranes, graders, and excavators. Most work for governments, equipment rental and leasing shops, and large construction and mining companies.

Rail car repairers specialize in servicing railroad locomotives, subway cars, and other rolling stock. They usually work for railroads, public and private transit companies, and railcar manufacturers.

Mechanics who work primarily on automobiles are described in the profile on automotive service technicians and mechanics.

Mechanics who work primarily on large trucks and buses are described in the profile on diesel service technicians and mechanics.

Mechanics who work primarily on motorboats, motorcycles, and small all-terrain vehicles are described in the profile on small engine mechanics.

Work Environment About this section

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians
Some service technicians travel to worksites to make repairs.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians held about 223,000 jobs in 2021. Employment in the detailed occupations that make up heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians was distributed as follows:

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines 152,600
Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians 49,500
Rail car repairers 20,900

The largest employers of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians were as follows:

Farm and garden machinery and equipment merchant wholesalers 11%
Government 9
Rental and leasing services 8
Heavy and civil engineering construction 8

Although many service technicians work indoors in repair shops, some service technicians travel to worksites to make repairs because it is often too expensive to transport heavy or mobile equipment to a shop. Generally, more experienced service technicians specialize in field service. These workers drive trucks that are specially equipped with replacement parts and tools, and they spend considerable time outdoors and often drive long distances.

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians frequently lift heavy parts and tools, handle greasy and dirty equipment, and stand or lie in awkward positions.

Injuries and Illnesses

Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Farm equipment mechanics and service techs frequently work with heavy parts and tools. Common workplace injuries include small cuts, sprains, and bruises

Work Schedules

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common.

Farm equipment mechanics’ work varies by time of the year. During busy planting and harvesting seasons, for example, mechanics often work six or seven 12-hour days per week. In the winter months, however, they may work less than full time.

How to Become a Heavy Vehicle or Mobile Equipment Service Technician About this section

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians
Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems.

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent. Because vehicle and equipment technology is increasingly sophisticated and computerized, some employers prefer to hire service technicians who have completed a formal training program at a postsecondary institution.

Education

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent. High school courses in automotive repair, electronics, physics, and welding provide a strong foundation for a service technician’s career. However, high school graduates often need further training to become fully qualified.

Completing a vocational or other postsecondary training program in diesel technology or heavy equipment mechanics is increasingly considered the best preparation for some entry-level positions. Offered by vocational schools and community colleges, these programs cover the basics of diagnostic techniques, electronics, and other related subjects. Each program may last 1 to 2 years and lead to a certificate of completion. Other programs, which lead to associate’s degrees, generally take 2 years to complete.

Training

Entry-level workers with no formal background in heavy vehicle repair often receive a few months of on-the-job training before they begin performing routine service tasks and making minor repairs. Trainees advance to more complex work as they show competence, and they usually become fully qualified after 3 to 4 years of work.

Service technicians who have completed a postsecondary training program in diesel technology or heavy equipment mechanics typically require less on-the-job training.

Many employers send new service technicians to training sessions conducted by equipment manufacturers. Training sessions may focus on particular components and technologies or particular types of equipment.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Some manufacturers offer certification in specific repair methods or equipment. Although not required, certification can demonstrate a service technician’s competence and usually commands higher pay.

Important Qualities

Dexterity. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must perform many tasks, such as disassembling engine parts, connecting or attaching components, and using hand tools, with a steady hand and good hand-eye coordination.

Mechanical skills. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must be familiar with engine components and systems and know how they interact with each other. They must often disassemble major parts for repairs and be able to reassemble them.

Organizational skills. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must maintain accurate service records and parts inventories.

Physical strength. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must be able to lift and move heavy equipment, tools, and parts without risking injury.

Troubleshooting skills. Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians must be familiar with diagnostic equipment to find the source of malfunctions.

Pay About this section

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Median annual wages, May 2021

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics

$53,770

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

$47,410

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians was $53,770 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,900, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $78,280.

Median annual wages for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians in May 2021 were as follows:

Rail car repairers $60,250
Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines 58,030
Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians 46,910

In May 2021, the median annual wages for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $60,550
Heavy and civil engineering construction 53,600
Rental and leasing services 48,620
Farm and garden machinery and equipment merchant wholesalers 46,970

Most heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians work full time, and many work evenings or weekends. Overtime is common.

Farm equipment mechanics’ work varies by time of the year. During busy planting and harvesting seasons, for example, mechanics often work six or seven 12-hour days per week. In the winter months, however, they may work less than full time.

Job Outlook About this section

Heavy Vehicle and Mobile Equipment Service Technicians

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics

8%

Total, all occupations

5%

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

4%

 

Overall employment of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians is projected to grow 8 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than the average for all occupations.

About 23,900 openings for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

As the stock of heavy vehicles and mobile equipment continues to increase, more service technicians will be needed to maintain it. Projected employment of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians varies by occupation (see table).

Agricultural production requires the use of increasingly complex and sophisticated software-driven farm equipment, which is expected to create demand for farm equipment mechanics and service technicians to maintain the equipment and to train customers in its use.

Population and business growth should result in greater demand for new houses, office buildings, bridges, and other structures, which in turn may require more mobile heavy equipment mechanics in the construction industry.

Some rail car repairers should continue to be needed to service trains used for freight shipping and transportation, as well as for public transportation.

Employment projections data for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics

49-3040 223,000 240,600 8 17,700 Get data

Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians

49-3041 49,500 54,800 11 5,300 Get data

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines

49-3042 152,600 164,200 8 11,600 Get data

Rail car repairers

49-3043 20,900 21,600 4 800 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more details about job openings for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians, consult local heavy and mobile equipment dealers and distributors, construction contractors, and government agencies. Local offices of the state employment service also may have information on job openings and training programs.

For more information about careers and training programs, visit

Associated Equipment Distributors

National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation

National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence

O*NET

Farm Equipment Mechanics and Service Technicians

Mobile Heavy Equipment Mechanics, Except Engines

Rail Car Repairers

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