Mobile heavy equipment mechanics maintain and repair construction and surface mining equipment, such as bulldozers, cranes, crawlers, draglines, graders, and excavators. They are usually employed by equipment wholesale distribution and leasing firms, large construction and mining companies, local and Federal governments, and other organizations that own heavy machinery and equipment fleets. Those employed by the Federal Government may work on tanks and other armored equipment. Mobile heavy equipment mechanics perform routine maintenance on engines, as well as fuel, brake, and transmission systems to maximize performance and ensure safety. They often work with hydraulic systems, repairing fluid leaks and occasionally replacing components. They also diagnose electrical problems, disassemble and repair undercarriages and track assemblies, and sometimes weld frames and structural parts.
Employers usually look for candidates who are at least 18 years of age, in good physical condition, and who have an aptitude for mechanical work and problem-solving. Technicians need to be flexible, because they are constantly required to adapt to new technologies and to the needs of customers. They must also have the ability to read and interpret various types of complex service manuals.
In 2002, mobile heavy equipment mechanics earned a median hourly wage of $17.29. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $11.54, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $24.90. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of mobile heavy equipment mechanics:
- Federal government – $19.44
- Local government – 18.03
- Other specialty trade contractors – 17.72
- Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers – 17.10
- Commercial/industrial machinery rental and leasing – 15.81
Training and Education
Although many people become mobile heavy equipment mechanics by completing on-the-job training, it is highly recommended that candidates obtain some kind of formal education because that is what employers prefer. Community colleges, trade schools, and vocational schools all offer formal training programs from 6-month certifications to 2-year associate degrees. Some tailor their programs to heavy equipment mechanics. These types of programs provide graduates with knowledge of the latest technologies and the ability to interpret complex technical manuals. Often, experienced employees will be sent by their employers to special training classes organized by manufacturers and vendors. In these classes, workers are given the chance to update their skills and familiarize themselves with the latest technology and repair techniques. You can check out a list of Diesel Mechanic Schools by clicking on this link.
In 2002, mobile heavy equipment mechanics held about 126,000 jobs. A third were employed by machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant wholesalers. 12% were employed by Federal, State, and local governments, and another 12% were employed by construction companies. Small numbers worked in agriculture, mining, rail transportation, and lawn and garden stores. Less than 5% were self-employed.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of mobile heavy equipment mechanics is expected to increase more slowly than the average. However, employers have reported difficulty locating and hiring employees with a formal education. This is because many young people with the relevant training opt for jobs that offer more openings and areas in which to work, such as automotive service technicians, diesel service technicians, or industrial machinery repairers. As a result, for those seeking jobs as mobile heavy equipment mechanics, and who have formal education in this field, opportunity will be very good.