Heavy Duty Truck alum Mike Mohr finds a home at Wayne Transports
Commercial motor vehicles, or CMVs, aka trucks—semi, box, dump and more—are the go-to means of shipping freight for companies and businesses in almost every state. According to the Commodity Flow Survey released by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, “trucks moved manufactured goods and raw materials in 2007 amounting to about 9 billion tons in shipments valued at $8.4 trillion. These totals represent more than two-thirds of the value and weight of freight shipped in the United States.”
Mike Mohr, 49, maintenance director at Wayne Transports, one of the largest family-owned bulk commodities carriers in the Midwest, has been involved in the trucking industry since he and his brother worked on a neighbor’s big rig back in the 1970s. His dad was a truck driver and very mechanical. Mohr started in the Heavy Duty Truck Technology program in 1980, graduating and going to work for Wayne right out of college.
“I bought a set of tools with money I made pumping gas,” said Mohr, who has always liked big trucks. He heard about the Heavy Duty Truck program at DCTC—known then as the Dakota County Area Vocational-Technical Institute—and decided to drive over to the college to check it out. “I threw my tools in the back of my ’74 Nova and away we went.”
In 1982, Mark Siemers, Wayne Transports maintenance director at the time (now president of the company), contacted the college looking for second-year students to interview for an entry-level technician position. Mohr got the job and excelled, eventually taking over as Wayne’s maintenance director, a position that covers a lot of territory. Founded in 1950, Wayne operates 285 company trucks with a workforce of 400 full- and part-time employees plus 75 leased operators, all serving the asphalt, chemical, dry bulk, heavy haul and petroleum industries.
“When you come in the door, you’re green as grass,” Mohr said, referring to technicians just out of college. “School’s a great foundation, but you need good people around you to help you fully develop. And I had that when I got here.”
Mohr reported that companies like Wayne prefer technicians who don’t have a lot of on-the-job experience. “We’ve found better success working with students in their second year,” he said. “We understand what those students know and what they don’t know. If they have the right attitude and are willing to listen, learn and give us effort—we’ve got a long future ahead of us.”
Rich Otteson, who has taught Heavy Duty Truck Technology at DCTC more than 30 years, agrees. He grew up in an industry that was all “iron, steel, nuts and bolts.” Now the industry is focused on onboard electronics and emissions standards that are constantly evolving.
“The most important thing we teach in our program is learning how to learn,” he said. “We teach our students how to troubleshoot, solve problems and do research. Technology in the trucking industry is moving faster and faster all the time.”
“Technology is rocketing forward. The first ten to fifteen years of my career you fixed trucks. It was wrenches, welders, hammers, grinders. Nowadays, you analyze trucks, you diagnose. Trucks are loaded with computers.” — Mike Mohr
Otteson’s fellow instructor, Ken Klassen, pointed out that training for technicians in the workplace never stops. “You are continually upgrading your skills and knowledge,” Klassen said. “Some technicians have more than 40 certifications—all requiring regular renewal.”
Klassen went on to say that the DCTC program produces polished, employable graduates who have a solid foundation in technical procedures and safety—and they are equipped to adapt to nonstop technological change.
Mike Mohr is the perfect example of a HDTT grad who not only adapted to change, but actually stayed ahead of it.
“Technology is rocketing forward,” he said. “The first ten to fifteen years of my career you fixed trucks. It was wrenches, welders, hammers, grinders. Nowadays, you analyze trucks, you diagnose. Trucks are loaded with computers.”
Instructor Ken Klassen listed six must-have skills for the HDTT graduate:
- Computer literacy
- Language comprehension accuracy
- Hands-on mechanical competence
- Ability to adapt to frequent technological change
- Ability to distill information to produce precise diagnoses
- Specific component knowledge
Today, Mike Mohr resides in Cottage Grove, Minn., with Cathy, his wife of 22 years. He met her on a blind date when she interned at Wayne while studying accounting at St. Thomas University. The couple have three children, Nick, 20, who’s attending St. Cloud State University, Stephanie, 17, a senior at Park High School, and Kyle, 15, a sophomore at Park. All enjoy soccer and ice hockey, two sports Mohr has coached at the youth-program level.
Mohr credits DCTC with giving him the tools he needed to land the career of a lifetime. And he still likes big trucks.
“If it’s got wheels or an engine,” he said. “It comes across my desk.”
Mike Mohr emphasized how computers are everywhere on modern commercial trucks. Here are a few examples, some passed down from the U.S. military:
- Computers for ABS brakes
- Computers for roll-stability system
- Components for traction control similar to what’s found on a Lexus
- Computer-controlled engines
- Computer-controlled transmissions
- Lane-departure systems
- Collision-avoidance systems
- GPS tracking
- Diagnostics over the Internet