Commercial truck drivers transport more than 175 million tons of goods originating in Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Transportation Center, and these goods aren’t moving themselves. Over 31,000 individuals in Wisconsin work as truck drivers, yet this is not enough to fill the growing need for workers in this industry. The need in this industry is two-fold: Wisconsin has a shortage of not only the truck drivers who are delivering goods, but also the skilled diesel technicians who can repair commercial vehicles, including agricultural commercial vehicles.

Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College recently launched two programs to address these labor shortages. Diesel equipment technician and truck driving are now accepting students for upcoming classes. 

The two-year diesel equipment technician technical diploma is available at the New Richmond campus for the first year. Students will spend their second year of the program getting hands-on training at Hammond Truck and Trailer repair, a division of Russ Davis Wholesale.

According to Mark Wiese, manager at Hammond Truck and Trailer, “There are more trucks on the road every year. Everything you eat, wear and use gets delivered on a truck, adding more trucks on the road and a demand for more mechanics.”

The diesel equipment technician program will prepare students to service and repair diesel trucks and diesel-powered agricultural and industrial equipment. The majority of classes will be conducted in the shop where students will gain hands-on experience with diagnosing, repairing and analyzing diesel equipment.

Upon successful completion of the program, graduates can expect to get careers in a variety of positions such as diesel equipment technician, fleet maintenance technician, equipment mechanic and more. 

 “It is important for mechanics to attend school to learn the theories of operation for all components that make up a truck,” said Wiese. “It is vitally important for technicians to understand how each component works, what it does and how it works with the other components in order to diagnose and make repairs to properly keep trucks moving across the country while being safe on the road.”

WITC is also expanding the truck driving program to be offered at both Rice Lake and New Richmond campuses. This is a 10-week program that will prepare students to earn a Class A and B Commercial Driver’s License. The next section for truck driving will be offered in September. Classes are taught through classroom and behind-the-wheel instruction, and students will get driving experience in both rural and urban settings. 

Mary Beth Raddatz of New Richmond graduated from WITC-Rice Lake’s 10-week truck driving program in March, and she passed her Class A Commercial Driver’s License test before even completing the program. Within weeks, Raddatz owned a truck and had a career hauling for local agriculture producers.

“I really had no idea there were so many options available for careers in trucking,” said Raddatz. “I have received so many employment offers.”  

There is a high demand for both of these programs in Northwest Wisconsin and nationwide, and that demand is expected to grow as baby boomers retire from these industries. For truck drivers, entry-level salaries are generally in excess of $40,000 per year with potential to earn more than $60,000 per year with experience. Most employers also offer health, vacation and retirement benefits. Diesel technicians and mechanics earn a median of $47,000 per year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the job outlook is expected to increase by nine percent from 2016 to 2026.

According to Wiese, truck driving and mechanics go hand-in-hand.

“A truck driver’s livelihood is dependent on a mechanic’s livelihood,” said Wiese. “It is hard to teach a mechanic on the job that has not had schooling and those mechanics usually end up doing routine service work and repairs. There are plenty of those candidates to choose from on the market but good technical mechanics are very hard to find.”

To learn more about the diesel equipment technician or truck driving program, visit witc.edu or call 800.243.9482.

WITC is grateful to all its community partnerships. Your support of the WITC Foundation is essential to student success. For information on how to contribute, visit witc.edu/donate.  

A nationally top-ranked college and a designated 2019 Military Friendly® School, WITC serves the educational and career needs of more than 18,000 residents of Northwestern Wisconsin each year. With multiple campuses, WITC offers career-focused associate degree programs, technical diplomas, short-term certificates, customized business training, and a wide array of courses for personal or career enrichment. WITC is a member of the Wisconsin Technical College System and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (www.hlcommission.org). For more information, call 800.243.WITC or visit witc.edu. WITC is an Equal Opportunity/Access/Affirmative Action/Veterans/Disability Employer and Educator.