The truck technician shortage is causing some fleets to outsource more of their repair and maintenance work to dealerships.
“Technicians are getting harder and harder to find,” said Scott Allen, director of fleet assets and maintenance for Dupré Logistics. “The really skilled ones that work on specific engines and transmissions are very hard to find and they’re even harder to keep.”
What’s more, today’s engines are getting more technical, requiring training and technical experience beyond what some fleets want to maintain for mechanics, said Scott Dixon, operations manager for Four Star Freightliner, based in Montgomery, Ala.
“They’ll decide to outsource to us,” he said.
In a survey conducted by MacKay & Co., fleets said they are outsourcing more work, with 68% of them completing all service work in-house in 2015, down from 75% in 2011, said Molly MacKay Zacker, vice president of operations for the research firm.
Less-than-truckload carrier A. Duie Pyle outsources major engine work and transmissions, and may outsource other items depending on the skill set of the technicians at its particular shops, said Dan Carrano, director of fleet maintenance.
“In our larger shops, and even smaller ones, we’ll have techs that are really good at electronic diagnosing,” Carrano said, noting they can handle a difficult job quickly. “In other shops, we have great techs but we frown on them taking on the big jobs because it eats up too much time, and we have other work that needs to be done.”
Fleets, similar to dealers, triage their vehicles just like a hospital does.
Fleets increasingly are turning to dealers for work on emissions-related systems, electronic controls and sensors, said John Blodgett, vice president of sales and marketing at MacKay & Co.
Kyle Treadway, dealer principal at Kenworth Sales Co., based in West Valley City, Utah, said fleets tend to outsource major engine work, body work and work on IT and communication equipment, such as tracking devices and cameras.
Dealerships and fleets said they’ve had to increase pay or offer incentives to find top-quality mechanics.
“In the long run of hiring a new employee and even finding one, it could be cheaper to send it out,” said Jack Poster, VMRS services manager for the Technology & Maintenance Council.