Thursday, May 23, 2013

Looking for a Career? Think Diesel

by Jim Knowles, Managing Editor of the San Leandro Times

The following article, which ran in the San Leandro Times on March 21, provides a number of reasons why a career in diesel would be worth pursing for a motivated student.

When Clint graduates from college he won’t have to wait around for the economy to recover. Most likely, if he studies and learns his stuff in the one- or two-year program, there will be a job waiting for him - a job that pays better than most recent college grads can expect. Clint is going to diesel college. The current high school student will go to Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Sacramento in June to learn to be a diesel technician.

“I graduate from high school on June 13 and I start at UTI in June,” said Clint, a driven young man who works two jobs while going to high school and hopes to buy his mom a house someday. Clint and around thirty other students came to a career day on Saturday, March 9, at Peterson Cat in San Leandro, a joint program by Peterson and UTI to show students the opportunities open to them in diesel mechanics.

Several of Peterson’s mechanics were on-hand to speak and answer questions and talk honestly about the field, both the good and the bad. It’s tough work that isn’t for everybody, but a hard-working mechanic not only is well paid, he can get lots of overtime and travel—a lot of jobs are in Antarctica, Alaska, Guam, and around the South Pacific: remote places that need diesels to run generators for electricity.

“This day and age it’s all about electricity,” Peterson Trucks Service Manager Ted Fleming told the students. “All backup electricity runs off generators. If you want to work hard, you got a job.” Right here in the Bay Area, a lot of businesses need backup generators run by diesels: hospitals, TV and radio stations, supermarkets, and computer Companies... Any operation that can’t afford to lose power.

“Not all the diesels come into the shop in trucks and tractors. Diesel mechanics have to go where the generators are—on the tops of buildings, for instance—to do what they call field work, which means plenty of overtime.

“There’s a need for mechanics right now, and that will only grow in the future,” Fleming said. “As the economy comes back, there will be a huge demand for people in this industry.”

And diesel mechanics isn’t an old-fashioned occupation. It’s as computerized as any field these days. The first thing a technician does is hook up a computer to the diesel. Industrial-strength Dell laptops are on stands all around Peterson’s shop, ready for use. “The technology is always advancing, so you’re constantly going to school to learn each new technology that comes out,” Fleming told the students. “Mechanics have to know how to figure it out on their own, to diagnose the problem and fix it,” said Joseph Junta, a technician at Peterson.

Junta later led a group through the shop, where truck and tour buses sat waiting to have their engines pulled out and repaired. All the new diesels are equipped with special filters to reduce emissions. The filters are then healed to bum off the particles, Junta explained. Of course, these new filters have problems and need repairs, but that’s more work for diesel technicians.

“The pay is hourly, not a flat rate for each job, so there is no incentive to rush or cut comers; it’s more important to do the job right,” Junta told the students. “The job is a combination of working with everybody as a team and being able to solve it on your own,” he said. Junta said he did well by taking the jobs that nobody else wanted to do. Repairing RVs is tough because the engines are hard to get to, and the owners don’t want the inside of their vehicles to get dirty. So Junta said he volunteered to take every RV that came in. “I decided to take the jobs nobody else wanted and that paid off,” Junta said.

To learn more about pursuing a job with Peterson, visit

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