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Choosing a maintenance service provider


I spend a considerable sum on preventive maintenance on my trucks. In the long run, it’s the best way to avoid unnecessary bills.

It’s very easy to spend a dollar trying to save a penny, except when it comes to trucks. It’s never just a dollar, but lots and lots of dollars. The implications are far greater than a hit to the back pocket, too. Breakdowns at the side of the road or out-of-service violations could land you in hot water with your carrier or customer, so it’s essential to have a proper preventive maintenance program in place.

However, that’s not as easy as it sounds. First, you need to find somebody to do the work. The whole idea is to ultimately save money, so giving somebody carte blanche to change out parts that may fail is not going to achieve that.

It may almost guarantee that you never break down or have an issue with the DoT, but it won’t be saving you money. This is where it gets difficult; do you use a main dealer or a smaller shop?

There are positives to both. A main dealer will have lots of experience with your particular truck model and will know what needs to be looked at, but they’re also pretty busy guys and it’s difficult to build a relationship when you’re dealing with a different person each time you go to the service desk. At dealerships, there are always any number of different technicians that could be assigned to work on your truck.

Using a smaller shop will give you that ‘part of the family’ feeling. The same face greets you as you approach the service desk and the same guy will be turning wrenches on your truck. But, they won’t know the intricate details of your particular truck model as well as the stranger at the main dealer who works on them all the time.

It’s something to consider. We’re not just talking about bits of metal wearing out, those days have long gone. Now, it’s sensors and modules that need attention. You can’t just look at a part and see that it’s on its last legs, so you need an expert.

Which basically means that you need two different shops to properly take care of your truck – a smaller shop to take care of it in general and a main dealer shop to deal with the electronic wizardry.

That’s the conclusion I’ve arrived at. I thought I had found the best of both worlds when I used a small shop franchised to a main dealer, but that turned out to be a complete nightmare and I’m still dealing with some of the issues arising from it.

Instead of getting the best of both worlds, I ended up getting the worst of both and it definitely didn’t save me any money. Not only were they more expensive than a main dealer shop – despite a cheaper hourly rate – but I’ve ended up having to pay another shop to double-check everything they’ve done, with very disappointing results.

My trucks are in decent shape, so even though it worked out at a higher cost than I first hoped, in the long run it will still be cheaper than leaving things to chance. That’s the most expensive preventive maintenance strategy of all.

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A fourth generation trucker and trucking journalist, Mark Lee uses his 25 years of transcontinental trucking in Europe, Asia, North Africa and now North America to provide an alternative view of life on the road.