While drivers are often the most visible faces of the trucking industry, there is another group that is equally important to the supply chain. Skilled diesel technicians are required to keep those big rigs rolling — and to solve any issues when they arise.
Just as there are training facilities to put prospective drivers behind the wheel, there are a variety of options for aspiring diesel technicians.
Perhaps the most common method of training for a mechanic is to check into programs at a local community or technical college. Likewise, high school trade programs can pair interested students with businesses that use mechanics and technicians; the two entities often work together to provide apprenticeship programs.
But, then again, high school students and recent graduates don’t always know what direction they want to take in life.
Love’s Travel Stops has developed a unique option for those seeking a fast-track entry to the profession or who are looking for a career change.
The Love’s Truck Care Academy, a cooperative effort with Speedco, opened its doors to students in April 2022. Gary Price, executive vice president of Love’s, says the program, which is the only one of its kind, has been nothing short of successful. In fact, the Academy recently celebrated its 300th graduate.
Students in the program receive both classroom instruction and hands-on experience in seven heavy-duty truck systems. Those completing the program enter the workforce armed with a tool set valued at $3,500.
Currently there are two training centers, one in Amarillo, Texas, and one in El Reno, Oklahoma. Love’s plans to open two more facilities in Arizona and Indiana. The plan is to double the diesel technician program’s number of graduates in the next year, Price said.
“We have the largest over-the-road workforce of diesel technicians and mechanics, and we want to help them realize their career goals,” Price said. “This truly is the application of the American Dream.”
Keven Avalos, a recent graduate of Love’s Truck Care Academy, now works in Tolleson, Arizona. He says the Love’s training academy was the only viable route for him to enter the profession once he realized what he wanted to do.
“In school, I was always getting in trouble because I had to be working on something with my hands,” Avalos said. “I also knew what it was like not having transportation because of mechanical issues.”
Avalos’ uncle worked on cars, and Avalos liked the idea of helping people solve those mechanical issues. In addition, he said, he was drawn to the profession because he knew there were a lot of truck drivers on the road in need of mechanical services — and he knew that some providers were overcharging for their services.
“My plan right after high school was to go to a technical institute,” Avalos said. “It’s a trade school for all type of mechanical classes.”
The problem for Avalos was that even though trade schools are far cheaper than traditional colleges and universities, his family couldn’t afford to send him. It just so happened, however, that Avalos’ sister, who is a Love’s employee, told him about the program.
“You should look into working with Love’s,” she told her brother. “They teach you the mechanical training and how to change tires, oil changes and other jobs.”
As of that conversation, Avalos’ future was planned. Today, Avalos is proud of the work he does for Love’s.
“(Drivers) come to our shop, we do the repairs for a fair price and they get back on the road, get home to their families and get back to making money,” he said. “But my favorite part of the job is meeting new people and new drivers every day. It’s great to go home knowing I helped someone. I made someone’s day better.”
Avalos says Love’s program prepared him for a promising future.
“It helped me so much,” he said. “I was really motivated to catch on quickly. I knew it would be going to school for four weeks, six days a week. I had to get on my horse and ‘go, go, go’. I still have a long way to go, but I’ve learned to be a better mechanic, and I want to take advantage of all the opportunities Love’s has given me.”
Since retiring from a career as an outdoor recreation professional from the State of Arkansas, Kris Rutherford has worked as a freelance writer and, with his wife, owns and publishes a small Northeast Texas newspaper, The Roxton Progress. Kris has worked as a ghostwriter and editor and has authored seven books of his own. He became interested in the trucking industry as a child in the 1970s when his family traveled the interstates twice a year between their home in Maine and their native Texas. He has been a classic country music enthusiast since the age of nine when he developed a special interest in trucking songs.