Pride in Service

John Ferguson
John Ferguson

HDTT grad John Ferguson follows diesel technician path to rewarding sales career

John Ferguson was already taking Heavy Duty Truck Technology (HDTT) classes at Dakota County Technical College while still a junior at South St. Paul High School. This approach saved John time and money on his way to graduating from high school in 2009 and DCTC two years later.

John Ferguson

With help from his HDTT instructor, Ken Klassen, John had a job lined up right after graduation with Interstate, a transportation products and services company with 20 locations across 11 Midwestern states. He went to work at Interstate’s Minneapolis location near the Mall of America and MSP International Airport.

“I started in the truck shop as a diesel technician,” John recalled. “My very first day I was sent over to the Carrier shop to install a brand-new, trailer-mounted refrigeration unit. From there, I went on to Carrier Transicold school in Athens, Georgia, for more training.”

More about Interstate…

At Interstate Companies, we recognize that time is money to our customers. Whether they face ongoing challenges or need day-to-day support, we work with a sense of urgency and an intense focus on meeting customers’ expectations. We seek out exceptional people who deliver on our motto of “Pride in Service,” a philosophy that has served our company and our customers well since 1957. (read more…)

John continued taking Carrier training modules and also earned EPA certification. He soon transitioned to the position of mobile service technician. That job gave him the chance to work on his customer relations skills in the field. When a promising job opened up in Carrier Sales at Interstate, he immediately applied.

“I had a solid background working with reefer units,” said John, who is pursuing Carrier Master Technician status, which involves taking a “very tough” exam. “I also knew my customers from working with them directly. Sales is all about developing good relationships and managing customer expectations. Owner-operators and companies with large fleets are given equal priority. New accounts are very important.”

Ken Klassen

Ken Klassen

Faculty perspective

“By hard work and determination, John Ferguson has been promoted to selling the final product that he started his career building and installing.

“Student success stories like this are the reasons why I teach. Our Heavy Duty Truck Technology program provides our students with the essentials for employment. Once our students are employed, their training never ends and advancement opportunities are available for the people with the right work ethic.

“Diesel technician careers are high paying and in high demand. Our industry is experiencing a shortage of qualified technicians. The HDTT program has a fall and spring start with newly remodeled labs and classroom space thanks to Phase II A of the 2014 Transportation and Emerging Technologies $7.6 million capital bonding request.”

Ken Klassen, DCTC Heavy Duty Truck Technology Faculty

At age 25, John is looking forward building on his technical and sales expertise at Interstate with the long-range goal of moving up to the corporate level. He is also looking forward to May 2017 when Interstate moves from its current location to a new facility in Lakeville, Minnesota.

“We will be located in the Air Lake Industrial Park,” John said. “I don’t know for certain, but there’s a fair chance my new office will have a window.”

A native of South St. Paul, John currently resides in Bloomington. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, Marcia, who was very instrumental during his progression from technician to sales professional. He also likes pan-fishing at his grandfather’s cabin on Villard Lake northwest of St. Cloud in Pope County, Minnesota, and taking road trips on his 2012 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Ultra Classic.

Diesel Service Technicians and Mechanics

Job outlook

Employment of diesel service technicians and mechanics is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations.

As more freight is shipped across the country, additional diesel-powered trucks will be needed to carry freight where trains and pipelines are not available or economical. Additionally, diesel cars and light trucks are becoming more popular, and more diesel technicians will be needed to maintain and repair these vehicles.

Workers who have completed formal postsecondary education and have strong technical skills should have the best job opportunities, followed by graduates of accredited high school automotive programs.

Heavy Duty Truck Technology lab

Heavy Duty Truck Technology lab


The median annual wage for diesel service technicians and mechanics was $44,520 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,680, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $66,940.

— Bureau of Labor Statistics

John Ferguson Q & A

John Ferguson

John Ferguson

What did you like best about the HDTT program?
The program has really good instructors, very knowledgeable with lots of industry experience. Coursework is very hands-on—and I learn better from doing rather than watching. The HDTT program at DCTC got me to where I am today.

What would you tell someone thinking about following your career path?
Getting my diesel engine foundation gave me the skills I needed to transition to refrigeration and from there to sales. This industry offers so many different paths of opportunity. My instructor, Ken Klassen, always said earning your Heavy Duty Truck Technology degree can lead to basically anywhere.

What person who has most influenced your life?
My dad showed me what it means to work hard. He was a sheet rocker for 30 years.

What has been your greatest challenge?
On the job, there’s a lot of adapting to issues that aren’t always black and white. The troubleshooting tree doesn’t provide all the answers—but problem-solving is how you get the experience you need.

What has been your greatest accomplishment?
I’m still young with my whole career ahead of me, but I’m very proud of working my way up to sales at Interstate.

To learn more about Heavy Duty Truck Technology at DCTC, contact:

Ken Klassen
HDTT Faculty