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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 218,100 jobs in 2019. 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 152,900
Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians 40,800
Rail car repairers 24,300

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

Farm and garden machinery and equipment merchant wholesalers 12%
Government 9
Heavy and civil engineering construction 7
Rental and leasing services 7

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 2019

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians

$51,590

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

$44,590

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

The median annual wage for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians was $51,590 in May 2019. 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 $33,170, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $76,830.

Median annual wages for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians in May 2019 were as follows:

Rail car repairers $56,390
Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines 53,370
Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians 42,200

In May 2019, the median annual wages for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Government $58,270
Heavy and civil engineering construction 52,210
Rental and leasing services 49,410
Farm and garden machinery and equipment merchant wholesalers 42,900

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 2019-29

Total, all occupations

4%

Heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians and mechanics

0%

Vehicle and mobile equipment mechanics, installers, and repairers

0%

 

Overall employment of heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians is projected to show little or no change from 2019 to 2029. Projected employment change varies by specialty.

Agricultural products used to feed a growing population are produced with the use of increasingly complex farm equipment, which will require farm equipment repairers to make them operational. However, new automated and precision farm equipment is often built with predictive maintenance and software systems that are more reliable, requiring fewer workhours. 

Population and business growth will result in the construction of houses, office buildings, roads, bridges, and other structures, which in turn will require mobile heavy equipment mechanics in the construction industry. However, nearly 3 in 10 of these workers are employed in wholesale trade, which is projected to decrease in employment over the next decade.

Some rail car repairers will continue to be needed to repair railcars used for freight shipping and transportation, as well as public transportation. However, reduced employment for these workers is expected to over the next 10 years due to projected employment declines in the rail transportation and support activities for rail transportation industries.

Job Prospects

Most job opportunities will come from the need to replace workers who retire or leave the occupation. Those who have completed postsecondary education programs should enjoy the best job prospects. Those without postsecondary education or certification are likely to face stronger competition for entry-level jobs.

The majority of job openings are expected to be in sectors that sell, rent, or lease heavy vehicles and mobile equipment. These sectors employ a large proportion of service technicians.

The construction and mining industries, which use a large amount of heavy equipment, are sensitive to fluctuations in the economy. As a result, job opportunities for service technicians in these sectors will vary with overall economic conditions.

Job opportunities for farm equipment mechanics are seasonal and are generally best during warmer months.

Employment projections data for heavy vehicle and mobile equipment service technicians, 2019-29
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2019 Projected Employment, 2029 Change, 2019-29 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 218,100 218,900 0 900 Get data

Farm equipment mechanics and service technicians

49-3041 40,800 41,300 1 500 Get data

Mobile heavy equipment mechanics, except engines

49-3042 152,900 154,000 1 1,100 Get data

Rail car repairers

49-3043 24,300 23,500 -3 -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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