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Careers for Heavy Equipment Technicians

Aug 17, 2007
Machinery categorized as heavy equipment include large vehicles and mobile equipments used in industrial activities such as construction, lifting of heavy material, tilling of land, digging of trenches for drains, laying of pipelines and paving of roads.

A heavy equipment technician is a skilled workman, who repairs and maintains heavy diesel engines, fuel, brake and transmission systems, electrical and other systems that are part of farm machinery, cranes bulldozers, railcars, heavy dumper trucks, excavators, pavers and many other type of such machinery. His key objective is to ensure that the machines remain in top working condition and continue to function at peak levels for a long time in line with safety norms. In view of the advanced technology used in machinery these days, these expert technicians are required to be conversant with the use of computerized diagnostic equipment, tachometers, dynamometers, ohm meters, ammeters, voltmeters specialized tools like pneumatic wrenches, operating lathes and grinding machines. An ability to work with jacks and hoists, gas cutting and welding tools in addition to the use of common hand tools such as screwdrivers, pliers and wrenches is also essential. Knowledge in electronics, hydraulics and welding technology is considered mandatory to perform well in this field.

Generally, a heavy equipment technician works indoors unless the job position is that of a field technician. The latter is required to work onsite on machines that cannot be moved to a shop. Field technicians are exposed to outdoor conditions, which include hostile weather and inadequate arrangements for meals or rest. The job involves lifting of heavy parts and carrying them in awkward positions. Though, by adhering to safety norms and working in well lighted, ventilated and heated work areas, serious accidents can be avoided, minor cuts, bruises, and burns are only to be expected in this job.

Working hours are generally 40 hours a week but might go up to 50 or even 60 hours if you are working in the farming sector during planting and harvesting seasons.

Although three to four years of on the job training earned by working as assistants under experienced technicians is considered sufficient, most employers prefer applicants who have completed a formal skill based program after graduating from high school. The candidate should be flexible with an aptitude for quick learning.

There are programs of one or two years duration leading to a certificate or an associate degree in diesel or heavy equipment mechanics. Such programs are offered by various community colleges and vocational schools. High school courses in automobile repair, physics, chemistry, and mathematics provide a strong foundation for a career as a heavy equipment technician. It is essential for technicians to be able to read and interpret service manuals in order to keep abreast of engineering changes

Ideally, a combination of formal and on the job training equips a technician with the knowledge and skills typically required for the repair and maintenance of heavy equipment. Employment opportunities for heavy equipment technicians exist in large construction and mining companies, local and federal governments, agencies that sell farm equipment, garden tractors, railcar and locomotive manufacturers and other companies operating and maintaining fleets of such equipment. As per statistics compiled in 2004, the average hourly earnings of a heavy equipment technician in the US during the year 2003-2004 ranged between $17 and $20.
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