Tips from technicians to help combat employee shortage

The trucking industry has exhausted plenty of time discussing the tech shortage over the last several years.

At a recent ATA Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) meeting, the industry finally brought the techs into the loop.

During a panel discussion with five active heavy-duty technicians, all TMC SuperTech and FutureTech contestants, TMC members were given the opportunity to question the new service professionals on why they entered the industry, what motivates them to succeed and mostly importantly, how to recruit their counterparts for similar positions.

The five technicians were open and candid with their responses.

Some technicians, such as 2013 and 2014 SuperTech Champion Mark McLean of FedEx, said they gravitated to a technical career thanks to a lifelong love of machines. The techs said they love working on their own cars, trucks, lawnmowers, “anything they could get their hands on,” McLean said, and wanted to be able to do that as a profession.

Others, such as FutureTech contestant Paul Moore from Mid Florida Tech, shifted careers into trucking when previous plans went array.

“I had a degree in applied mathematics and couldn’t find a job,” he said.

Once enrolled in training programs, the panel said their interest and commitment to trucking quickly continued to grow.

“I loved every second of it,” said Karl Kerutis, a WyoTech graduate who finished third in TMC’s FutureTech contest before entering the workplace at a Volvo-Mack dealership in South Dakota.

They looked for similar levels of enthusiasm when choosing their employer.

Kerutis and 2014 FutureTech Champ Gunnar Lueck said they were courted by fleets and dealers when they finished school. In both cases, the techs said the business they chose was the one that did the best job of making them feel comfortable. Lueck in particular was impressed by how his new coworkers at Bruckner Truck Sales introduced themselves and welcomed him to the family.

Each tech said they would encourage students finishing tech school to look for the same atmosphere.

“Everyone wants to work in a shop that is like home,” said Wal-Mart Tech Nick Moeller.

Somewhat surprisingly, the group seemed less focused on compensation. While most techs said their employers met their financial expectations coming out of trade school, the group noted business culture, skills training, company leadership and career mobility as larger drivers in their hiring decisions.

Safety matters, too. Techs won’t take a job if they don’t feel safe.

Compensation doesn’t mean much “if I can only work three months because a truck dropped on my leg,” said Moore.

“There’s no replacement for working in a clean, safe shop,” Moeller added.

And when asked about recruiting their contemporaries, the group was frank — trucking has to sell its technology.

“I don’t think you can say someone is too smart” or qualified for this career, said McLean. “The trucks today are getting smarter and smarter … techs need to keep up with that.”