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Diesel Mechanics

History

In 1892, Rudolf Diesel patented an engine that, despite its weight and large size, was more efficient than the gasoline engine patented by Gottlieb Daimler less than a decade earlier. While Daimler's engine became the standard for automobiles, Diesel found his engine had practical use for industry. The diesel engine differs from the gasoline engine in that the ignition of fuel is caused by compression of air in the engine's cylinders rather than by a spark. Diesel's engines were eventually used to power pipelines, electric and water plants, automobiles and trucks, and marine craft. Equipment used in mines, oil fields, factories and transoceanic shipping also came to rely on diesel engines. With the onset of World War I, diesel engines became standard in submarines, tanks, and other heavy equipment. Suddenly, diesel mechanics were in big demand and the armed forces established training programs. Combat units supported by diesel-powered machines often had several men trained in diesel mechanics to repair breakdowns. The war proved to industry that diesel engines were tough and efficient, and many companies found applications for diesel-powered machines in the following years.

At the turn of the century, trucks were wooden wagons equipped with gasoline engines. As they became bigger, transported more goods, and traveled farther, fuel efficiency became a big concern. In 1930, the trucking industry adopted the diesel engine, with its efficiency and durability, as its engine for the future. Many diesel mechanics began their training as automobile mechanics and learned diesel through hands-on experience. World War II brought a new demand for highly trained diesel mechanics, and again the armed forces trained men in diesel technology. After the war, diesel mechanics found new jobs at trucking companies that maintained large fleets of trucks, and at construction companies that used diesel powered equipment. It wasn't until the 1970s that diesel engines in consumer passenger cars began to gain popularity. Before then, the disadvantages of diesel—its heaviness, poor performance, and low driving comfort—made diesel a second choice for many consumers. But the fuel crisis of the 1970s brought diesel a greater share of the automotive market, creating more demand for mechanics who could repair and maintain diesel engines.

Today, job growth and security for diesel mechanics is closely tied to the trucking industry. In the 1980s and 1990s, the trucking industry experienced steady growth as other means of transportation, such as rail, were used less frequently. Now, many businesses and manufacturers have found it cost efficient to maintain less inventory. Instead, they prefer to have their materials shipped on an as-needed basis. This low-inventory system has created a tremendous demand on the trucking industry, and diesel mechanics are essential to helping the industry meet that demand.

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