A boom in RV sales coupled with a shortage of maintenance technicians is keeping dealerships busy and customers on waiting lists, according to a report in the Dallas Morning News.
RVs often require specialized skills in plumbing, heating and cooling, engine repair, hydraulics, satellite systems and electronics, and there is a growing consumer demand for coaches equipped with higher-end amenities.
With more and more RVs on the road, dealerships and repair businesses haven’t been able to keep up, industry officials said.
“You have to wait about three weeks for service on anything, unless it’s a dire emergency,” said Todd Springs, service manager at Buddy Gregg Motor Homes in Lewisville, Texas, which employs 17 technicians.
Bob Farrow, 74, bought his first RV in 1973 and upgraded to his fourth a couple of years ago. He and his wife put about 15,000 miles on their vehicle every year as they travel to football games and other events.
Farrow has seen his waiting time increase for regular maintenance as RVs have advanced technologically and added more amenities.
“You have to be patient,” said Farrow, a Dallas accountant. “I’ve got great knowledge of what’s wrong with it, but no capabilities. It’s a matter of getting someone who’s familiar with your unit.”
Texas State Technical College in Waco enrolled 10 students in an RV maintenance program created this fall in response to industry demands. It’s one of a handful of programs nationwide.
The one-year curriculum draws from classes already taught at the school, but it’s tailored to fit RVs.
According to the Morning News, RV dealers are scrambling to hire students only weeks after classes began.
Some students are mechanically minded young people who strayed from automotive repair programs. Others are retirees looking for new careers to keep them busy.
“You’re guaranteed a job when you graduate, which is nice to know,” said Casey Schreiber, a 20-year-old student from Waco. “I’ve talked about it to a bunch of my friends that are mechanics, and now they’re all interested.”
College officials are considering a shorter program for RV owners who want to develop their own maintenance skills.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the average hourly wage for RV service technicians as $13.83, but industry officials say educated technicians can earn more, especially in a booming market like Texas.
The average hourly wage in Houston is $20.86, one of the highest-paying metropolitan areas in the country.
“Dealerships complain that if they train the guy, their competitors will steal him. I say it sounds like they’re just not paying him enough,” said Bruce Hopkins, vice president of standards and education for the national RV association. “Dealers have to support the program, help with recruiting. If the seller doesn’t have a technician to provide service, it makes the industry look bad.”
Until more technicians are available, weekslong waits for maintenance are the norm. Emergency calls will require extra help, and repair shops will continue turning away business.
“We’ve learned to keep some free time for emergencies and for our good customers, but we always fill it,” said Rodney Simmons, president of Blue Moon Mobile RV in Dallas.
Blue Moon could keep at least three more technicians busy, he said. “It’s gut-wrenching to turn someone away.”