As OEMs and vocational schools step up plans for electric vehicle service training, experts say they haven’t seen the growing demand for EV mechanics impacting current recruiting efforts for diesel technicians.
That’s good news for shops following a decline in the number of diesel techs in the U.S., which has yet to rebound to pre-pandemic levels according to the Department of Labor.
In the next 10 years, more than 28,000 diesel tech openings are expected each year and while competition for recruits amid a shift to zero-emission electric trucks may cause some initial concern, experts say they don’t anticipate a problem.
“No, we are not concerned about losing diesel students [to electric],” said WyoTech vice-president of training Shawn Nunley.
Nunley referenced a report from Diesel Technology Forum which points out how diesel powers 97% of Class 8 trucks and three out of four smaller and medium duty commercial trucks.
“EV’s are still too much in their infancy and currently posing very concerning test results in terms of viability and performance to see any sizable shift away from the pressing demand for diesel technicians,” Nunley continued. “Our employers are hard pressed to find enough diesel technicians to fill the massive demand in the market and we do not see that shifting soon.”
Daimler Truck North America (DTNA), which announced the addition of electric powertrain courses at their Detroit Service Training Center earlier this year, said they’re not concerned about losing a disproportionate number of diesel students to electric.
“Not at this time,” said DTNA spokesperson Whitney Anderson. “This is a very calculated ramp up and technicians can work on both with the proper training.”
According to the 2022 State of Diesel Technicians report, a survey-based report produced by CCJ parent-company Randall Reilly and sponsored by Shell Lubricant Solutions, roughly 54% of polled diesel technicians reported receiving OEM certified instruction. Electric truck service training will likely result in additional OEM certifications as DTNA, Ford, GM, Kenworth, Tesla and Volvo Trucks roll out training programs specific to their brand’s EVs.
GM, which plans on releasing an electric Chevy Silverado Work Truck (WT) this spring and following that up later in 2023 and beyond with more capable electric trucks, sees technicians training to work on both electric and internal combustion.
“GM will continue to support ICE vehicles, 20 years post launch, as well as support the addition of EVs,” said GM spokesperson Sabin Blake. “This requires the continued need for skilled auto technicians to service both types of vehicles. The auto technician career has evolved into a highly technical career as both ICE and EVs require an advanced level of technical training and expertise.”
New Village Institute campus director Chris Barton said his school in Blairsville, Pennsylvania, remains focused on training diesel techs because there hasn’t been a big demand for much else.
“NVI plans to evolve our training program along with the industry as it changes,” Barton said. “Right now, we currently don’t have a focus on electric trucks, but we continue to have discussions with industry partners on the technology, their plans and timeline to incorporate it, etc.”
Barton envisions diesel students evolving to work on electric but that may not always be the case in the years ahead.
“It’s possible that EV technology could attract a different type of student who is more interested in a high-tech career path, but initially they will still need to be willing and able to perform many of the current maintenance and repair duties of a diesel technician,” Barton added.
Professor John Frala, who leads alt fuel technician training at Rio Hondo College in Whittier, California, said more women have been signing up for electric truck courses.
“The cool part about this is that I'm getting more female involvement because now it’s not a greasy, grimy and lifting heavy stuff [position],” Frala said. “Now it's all computer based. And if they do need to do some heavy lifting, we've got hydraulic workbenches or lift benches now that the girls can use. They're not doing the heavy lifting.”
Frala said Rio Hondo currently has a grant from the National Science Foundation that is “targeting the recruitment of underserved [minorities] and females.” Current female enrollment is about 12% per class, he said.
Lincoln Tech, one of the oldest vocational schools in the U.S., still sees the majority of its students signing up for ICE courses. However, they recently partnered with Tesla on EV courses.
“Lincoln recently entered a 3-year agreement with Tesla to provide Tesla’s START training program at our Denver campus,” said Lincoln’s senior vice president of marketing Peter Tahinos.
“This represents the latest advancement in our EV training programs and Tesla will also be providing input as Lincoln further develops EV training programs. It is Lincoln’s intention to become the leading provider of EV technology training.”