by Tim Brady
, Business Editor
All trucks and trailers have maintenance requirements that can’t be neglected. If they are, there’s a significant price to pay for that neglect. The truck’s owner is ultimately responsible for overseeing that necessary maintenance is completed. There are financial consequences to be paid if this is ignored.
Murphy’s Law would suggest that if a truck is going to break down, it will take place in the most inconvenient location and at an inopportune time financially. Add to this the consequences of violating CSA rules and it’s easy to see how important it is to properly maintain a truck and/or trailer.
Number one on the list of things to do is the careful selection of who performs your preventive maintenance (PM). While many smaller carriers depend on a diesel mechanic shop or OEM dealer to handle maintenance and repairs, there are micro-carrier owners who will, for the sake of saving a few dollars, do their own maintenance. And while this does have some advantages, it also has one very large disadvantage: Only one set of eyes is looking over a very important piece of equipment.
I’m not suggesting you stop doing your own maintenance, as it has much value for you, the owner, if done correctly. But it is recommended you develop a relationship with a diesel repair shop or OEM that can act as your second set of eyes. Have them do your quarterly inspections and from time to time, have them do a complete PM in which the mechanic changes the oil, lubes the truck, and inspects and adjusts the brakes, tires and electrical system.
By carefully choosing the right technician for preventive maintenance and inspections, you will eliminate hours of aggravation resulting from expensive roadside downtime.
How should you go about finding and selecting the best mechanic for your operation? Your first concern should be quality of service—not price. Locate a diesel mechanic with ASE (Automotive Services Excellence) certification, one who has a thorough knowledge of your particular truck and engine model. This individual should know every repair that’s ever occurred on your truck. You should be able to consult the mechanic from the road for his advice and the best course of action to take. Can the repair wait? Can the truck be driven back to the repair shop? Does the truck need to be inspected and repaired immediately, out on the road?
This technician should be located within a few miles of your main location, making it convenient to follow the preventive maintenance schedule and all inspections and repairs.
All of this necessary downtime is easily coordinated with home time or when your driver is coming through. But again, the quality of the work performed must take order of importance over location and price.
As you search for your mechanical expert, keep these guidelines in mind:
- Is the shop updating skills on a regular basis through OEM service and maintenance updates and memorandum?
- Does the shop have a continuing education schedule with all the different OEMs represented?
- Is there a certification or testing program in place to verify a technician’s skill level?
- Does the shop maintain or have immediate access to parts for your particular truck make and model?
- Does the shop have the correct OEM-required tools for repairs?
- Are you able to communicate with the shop?
- Does the shop work with you and your schedule to keep interruptions to you and your customers at a minimum?
- Does the shop foreman look out for your best interests by looking for the lowest possible cost with the best results?
The second important consideration is having the correct inspection program in place so items needing repair are discovered and repaired before they become more costly. This requires coordination between the driver of the truck, the technician and the truck’s owner. All three need to be in the loop at all times.
Of the three, the most important is the driver (or drivers) operating the truck on a daily basis. Each driver in your fleet must be continuously vigilant: looking, listening and listing everything observed concerning the mechanical condition of the truck and trailer. Any strange sound should be listed on the daily inspection notebook. Any unusual aberration in the handling behavior of the truck should be noted, including odd odors, emissions or fluid leaks.
This continuous inspection needs to occur every moment of the day, from the pretrip inspection to the post-trip inspection. It needs to include a walkaround every time the driver gets out of the truck, as well as an inspection while fueling.
Drivers need to check running lights, brakes, tires, wheels, airlines, electrical lines, drips and look for liquids in places where they shouldn’t be. All driver observations must be noted and communicated to both the mechanic and vehicle owner. The driver becomes the technician’s eyes and ears and thus can nip in the bud any mechanical problems before they become unscheduled downtime on the road.
There are financial benefits from effective inspection and preventive maintenance as well:
- Reduces unscheduled downtime.
- Allows flexibility in scheduling the truck for service, thereby increasing revenue and cash flow by eliminating lost or delayed loads.
- Helps maintain value in the truck at trade-in or resale.
- Improves your carrier’s CSA BASICs score with zero violation roadside inspections.
Don’t let unscheduled downtime caused by an avoidable repair ruin a shipper’s day—and your contract with them. Take control of your equipment maintenance and repair and you’ll reduce costs and increase your revenue.
Contact Tim Brady at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 731-749-8567. Join Brady in the Trucking Business Community at www.truckersu.com