Trucking's technician shortage doesn’t garner the headlines that the driver shortage does. But it’s been a problem facing the trucking industry for a long time. For a variety of reasons, trucking has had a difficult time selling the maintenance side of the business to young people. This would be bad enough at any time. But today, given the rapidly increasing complexity of commercial vehicle powertrain systems, it’s nearing the point of being a full-blown crisis.
Could electric trucks help ease some of truck’s current technician troubles?
It’s an interesting thought – and here’s why.
Depending on who you talk to, electric truck designs today have anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 fewer parts than conventional (gasoline or diesel) powertrains. That’s a handy statistic. But it really doesn’t go far enough in illustrating the point, because many of the highly complex systems those missing components empower – fuel injection systems, exhaust gas aftertreatment systems, clutches and transmissions, to name a few – are completely absent from electric trucks. And many of the remaining vehicle systems will be strikingly similar – or exactly the same – as systems found on conventional trucks: axles, suspensions, body panels and lighting, for example.
Granted, electric trucks will have their own highly specialized components that technicians will soon have to master, such as battery systems, advanced power management software and computing systems, regenerative braking system and high-voltage electrical systems.
But overall, the current thinking goes, electric trucks are likely to be less technically complex than diesel- and gasoline-powered trucks. If that proves to be the case, it’s reasonable to assume that fleets running large numbers of electric trucks will need fewer technicians to keep those vehicles up and running than competitors using more conventional powertrains. Could that aspect of electric truck deployment eventually help alleviate trucking’s technician crunch?
Obviously, there are a lot of things that have to happen before that scenario becomes reality. First, electric trucks have to prove they can hack it in the real world of daily fleet operations. Assuming that happens, they will then have to be sold in enough numbers to actually cause a corresponding shift in technician supply and demand to occur in the trucking industry at large.
But it is an interesting thought, and one that might push more than a few fleets struggling with technician shortages and other maintenance issues to take a closer look when and if these new types of trucks make it into the marketplace.