Equipment dealers predict gaps in filling up to 73,500 heavy equipment technician positions needed in the next five years, says a survey of 131 firms by the Association of Equipment Dealers and The College of William and Mary.

The survey results, released last year online to AED's 800 members in North America, were shared more broadly on March 11 at the CONEXPO-CON/AGG trade show in Las Vegas.

The survey also found that 62% of dealer respondents said they don't believe colleges and trade schools understand the specific needs of their businesses. Additionally, 90% of respondents reported having a job opening with a starting wage above the national average.

"The shortage has been something that's been a challenge to our business for some time now," says Jeffrey Scot, AED Foundation chairman and owner of Intermountain Bobcat in Salt Lake City.

AED also announced a $300,000 donation from the Caterpillar Foundation to create educational initiatives to produce more certified equipment technicians.