Careers for Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics Podcast
Morgan Woodtke, Lincoln Tech Graduate and Diesel Technician: My job is to figure out what is wrong with the truck, which sounds simpler than it is.
Tom Commaroto, Branch Manager at TK Services of Carlstadt, NJ: We show them how to support the vehicles and take the wheels off and how to take the actual brakes off the trucks a little bit different. I think it's about 22 years we've been in partnership with them. We started out when they were a tiny little school in Union, New Jersey, and we've always had a great relationship.
Host: Welcome to the official podcast of Lincoln Tech. In this episode, we'll be looking at the diesel program. We'll find out what you can expect to learn and what kind of jobs are out there. We'll find out what you'll learn and what you'll need to be successful in the program from a grad, an instructor and an employer. But first, Lincoln Tech's mission is to provide superior education and training to our students for in-demand careers in a supportive, accessible learning environment, transforming students’ lives and adding value to their communities. And Lincoln's promise to our students is simple. We will work tirelessly to help you succeed on the road to new career opportunities. Now let's dive into some details about the program.
Woodtke: Okay. I'm Morgan Woodtke. I graduated the diesel program at Lincoln Tech in 2021. I was the diesel program student ambassador during my time there as well. Lincoln Tech is really the only program that has diesel from what I found. A lot of places have automotive, but I knew that I wanted to do diesel. I knew that I wanted a bit more of a challenge. I come from a family of diesel mechanics and I wanted to follow in my dad and brother's footsteps. In my opinion, it's definitely more difficult than automotive. I've worked in automotive before and I just found myself not being challenged enough. The diagnostics in heavy duty diesels are way more advanced, and that's what I do at my current job. Now I do advanced diagnostics and I love it. I'm never bored, I'm constantly challenged and I love being challenged.
I currently work for Allegiance Trucks at the Hartford, Connecticut location there. I do advanced diagnostics. And lately I've been spending a lot of time training other technicians, helping them with jobs that they're not quite sure how to do and teaching them how to do things per the dealership, the way that Navistar wants it to be. I've been there about two and a half years now. My job there is to figure out what is wrong with the truck, which sounds simpler than it is. A lot of times you'll get a truck that has already been to other dealerships and multiple people have had their hands in it.
They've looked at it and they can't quite figure out what's wrong with it. So my job is to really start from scratch and inspect everything. Sometimes it's advanced electrical, but sometimes it's something as simple as making sure that that truck is safe to be on the road. You know, these trucks haul 80,000 pounds, and I want to make sure that truck is going to stop when it needs to. That there's no parts that are going to come loose and cause an accident. So there's a really big variety of things that we do there, but everything is based around safety.
Host: So Morgan – why Lincoln Tech, and why the diesel program?
Woodtke: Lincoln Tech definitely taught me most of what I know. When I got there, I had never touched a heavy duty truck, so it was all new. And the instructors really gave you a sense of what it's like in the real world, which was super helpful.
Host: How did Lincoln Tech prepare you for a job in the real world? How hands on was it?
Woodtke: The instructors give you a feel of what the real world is like. You know, when you go into this program, if you have no prior experience, you don't know what it's like. You think, Oh, I'm doing oil changes, I'm fixing trucks. There's a lot more to it. There is a standard that you're held to, especially in heavy duty. There's federal documents that you have to fill out for every single truck you touch. And I never knew that, and I didn't realize how important those things were. So it's nice to have instructors that have been in the field that have done it, and they can tell you, hands down, this is what it's like and these are your expectations.
Host: Before you put all of your Lincoln Tech knowledge out in the real world, you're going to learn that knowledge first.
Marvin Harris, Lincoln Tech Instructor: My name is Marvin Harris. I'm an instructor from the Lincoln Tech campus in South Plainfield, New Jersey. I've been teaching for 24 years. I've been with Lincoln officially for about 14 years, but I taught about ten years prior to that with Engine City Tech, who ended up being purchased by Lincoln Tech when I had left. So now I'm back, you know? Teaching is my first love, and I just love what I do. I love the campus. I love my coworkers. We're like, you know, one little family. And that seems to be where everybody picks up as they come to our campus.
Host: Sounds like Marvin will be perfectly qualified to give us an overview of the diesel program.
Harris: When you come into our diesel technology program, there are 13 courses that you take. They're one month apart and they teach you every aspect of diesel technology. When we say diesel technology, it's really the application of the diesel engine in various industries such as construction, marine transport, refrigeration systems, industrial applications, power generation. So anywhere where they use it, the diesel engine, and that includes doing some electrical stuff, troubleshooting engines, welding, you know, all those basic skills. So there's really five basic skills that you're going to learn that that transfer segue into almost any industry.
One is welding, one is electrical, you know, mechanical processes, engines, and also using software. So those are the skills that you need for the industry right now, the opportunities that they have in terms of jobs and careers. This is quite a bit; I'll start with being a general mechanical technician where you are repairing equipment and that could be the construction industry, it could be the automotive industry, it could be in heavy duty trucks, heavy duty and medium truck industry. With further training, you can do marine [equipment] , , there's transport equipment like you would find at an airport, airport ground support equipment and even fire apparatus. There's just so many ways you can go for those people who prefer more hands-on.
We do the management course. So you can be a service writer. You can be a shop foreman where you just want to do the paperwork. But we mostly emphasize the service writer aspect of it, because you have to know some mechanical stuff and you have to know how the shop runs and you have to know how to interact with not only the customer, but also the mechanics as well. So one of the things that I do when I teach the course is I teach the students the role of each person on the management side, beginning with the foreman and their responsibilities, and then the service writer who's the intermediary between the customer, the technician and also upper management as well. Then I teach them about the role of the shop manager and his responsibilities. I don't go to owner level because that's a whole other thing. The owner could be either one of those and how they interact to get the repairs done and try to satisfy the customer's needs.
Host: Marvin, can you describe a specific hands-on real-world tasks the students will learn?
Harris: Well, let's go with brakes. I mean, that is one of the tasks that they'll be doing all the time, whether it's automotive or heavy duty or medium duty applications. So when we do brakes, we show them how to support the vehicles and take the wheels off and how to take the actual brakes off the trucks. A little bit different than on a car per se.
So what we call the foundational part - we'll let them take those apart. We'll show them how to take the hub off, which is supported by the wheel bearings and you know how to take those off. We let them do that and then reinstall them and show them how to do the adjustments. Show them how to measure wear on the brake pads and brake drums. And they do all of that. And then a suspension. We let them take the axles down, remove them all the suspension components dragging power, and they take all that off kingpins and then they reinstall them, make any adjustment that's necessary, you know, doing measurements to make sure that they're within specification.
And we have a PM class where it's really when you take the PM class, it's really best that they have taken all the classes because what you're doing there is identifying anything that may potentially fail, that can cause a danger to the public or a breakdown. And, you know, when you have a breakdown, it costs the company money because the load doesn't get there. And the safety of course, it involves all of us, whether you're just somebody else on the road. And it could cause major property damage as well. So we teach them how to inspect everything from steering to the engine to the brakes, to the tires, to the fifth wheel lighting. You know, that is part of it as well.
Host: You'll receive the real-world skills that can land you a real-world job.
Commaroto: My name is Tom Commaroto. I'm the general manager for TK Services [in Carlstadt, New Jersey]. I've been in this business for 46 years, and honestly, it's a business that I thought I would never get into. But I have to tell you that I've never been without a job. I've never gone without a paycheck. And it's been good to me. So that's why I continue to stay.
Host: Tom has had a great relationship with Lincoln Tech. That's one of the reasons that grads are so sought after.
Commaroto: Well, I've actually been a partner with them. It's got to be actually – I was just talking to Tim O'Connor [at the Lincoln campus] about this a few weeks ago – I think it's about 22 years we've been in partnership with them. We started out when they were a tiny little school in Union, New Jersey, and we've always had a great relationship. We at one point, at some point over the last 20 years, probably three quarters of my shop came out of that school and we always had good results. You know, they're well-trained. Very rarely did we get somebody out of there that did not know what they were supposed to know. So we always kept a working partnership with them back then. And when it was Engine City Tech.
Now part of Lincoln Tech, we always kept a great relationship with them and they are actually one of the few schools in the United States that has a Thermo King authorized transport refrigeration course, which means all of their trainers have been out to Thermo King, have been trained by Thermo King, and they've taken the Thermo King course and they've expanded it out for three months. Thermo King actually teaches that course in two weeks. So it's a very, very detailed course that nobody else does that kind of training for. We're involved with other schools, and nobody has the course like Engine City, like Lincoln Tech has.
Host: What's the market for a graduate from the diesel program at Lincoln Tech?
Commaroto: Because we are a service related business. Nobody wants to get it, that “high” is not high enough. It is it is just beyond the imagination of how many people we need in the diesel industry, trucking industry. You know, they talk about doctors and nurses and everything else. We're just as bad, if not worse, because, as you know, people today don't want to get into this type of business. They don't want to get their hands dirty. And you know, it's a great career if you're the right person and you can make lots of money and have a long term career. But the demand is exceptionally high, exceptionally high. We’ll be growing our business. I mean, right now we're sort of stagnant. We're falling behind with customer repairs. If we had enough people, we'd be growing our road business as well as our shop business. The work is there. We have way more work than we could handle on a daily basis. Actually, we turn work down because we don't have enough people. So our goal is to grow this business. Corporate wise, the goal is to go from a $500 million business today to a $1-billion-dollar business in the next five years. So without people, that ain’t happening. There's not too many people going into this type of business anymore. Anything with the trades - plumbers, electricians, carpenters, you know, diesel techs, automotive techs, they're very far fewer in between.
Part of what's happening today is the young people that are coming out of school, they don't have the shop courses and the woodworking courses that, you know, people laughed at years ago and say, oh, wow, you won't get woodwork. You'll never need it, you know? Well, like I tell everybody that I talk to when it comes to talking to people after school or new students or whatever. Tell me your job in any of the service fields, be it automotive, trucks, carpentry, electrical, refrigeration, air conditioning. Tell me how many of those jobs are sourced overseas? Zero. There is not one of those jobs that are sourced overseas. Everything is done in the US. I mean people that work in the United States. And that's just the way it is. So you'll never, ever have to worry about that job going overseas because you can't fix your air conditioner over in another country.
In all the years I've been doing this again, I've never, ever, ever been without a job, ever. If there weren't refrigerated equipment and people to fix it, the stores would be bare. There would be no food on anybody's table. But nobody gets that. So when you're in our business, you basically have a job for life.
Host: Training at Lincoln Tech will provide you with the skills you need to get going and hit the ground running. Does the diesel program and Lincoln Tech sound like a fit for you?
Commaroto: I wouldn't be with somebody for 20 plus years if they didn't serve my business, you know? And I'm looking to hire people right now. We are literally looking to hire five, six techs, like immediately. So we're trying to get that resolved over the next several months.
Host: Find out more information, schedule a campus tour and talk to instructors or the career services team online at LincolnTech.edu.