Roadside repair costs continue to rise

by Jack Roberts

ATLANTA, Ga. — The American Trucking Associations’ (ATA) Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) kicked off the Spring 2020 meeting by sharing the latest results of an unscheduled repair cost study TMC has undertaken with FleetNet America.

The benchmarking study began in 2017 and, according to Jim Buell, executive vice-president, sales and marketing for FleetNet America, has documented yet another rise in unscheduled repair costs for fleets. Furthermore, Buell noted, the latest data, compiled for the third quarter of 2019, showed that unscheduled repair costs for fleets rose for the fourth quarter in a row and — for the first time — the average cost of those repairs exceeds US$400 an event. Buell said the study found that $407 an event, the average cost of a mechanical repair is now 24% higher than mechanical repairs in the same quarter in 2018.

The report, which looks at repair costs in the truckload, less-than-truckload and tank industry fleets, also showed that roadside repairs vary greatly across all of these market sectors, Buell added, and noted that the data shows a strong indication that the industry has room to reduce maintenance costs by closing the gap between the average and best-in-class fleet performers in each sector. He noted that the best performing tanker fleet participating in the study does 18% better than the average fleet. The best performing LTL fleet does 14% better than average, while the best dry van fleet does a whopping 188% better than the average fleet participating in the study.

“Cost per repair looks like a permanent headwind our industry is facing and it would be advantageous for fleets to seek to address this,” said Robert Braswell, executive director, TMC. “The TMC/FleetNet America Vertical Benchmarking Program is a TMC member benefit designed to help fleets deal with increasing costs by having fewer roadside repairs.”


Is a new truck braking system on the horizon?

TMC, in partnership with the PIT Group, a transportation technology research organization, also released reports outlining the effectiveness of TMC’s Aerodynamic Fuel Savings Calculator, and an investigation of new electromechanical braking systems for tractor trailers.

Jack Legler, TMC technical director, noted during the press briefing, that after reviewing data from 87 tests dating back to 2007, as well as telemetry from other sources, the PIT Group, “found the calculator helpful for fleet managers and owner-operators to evaluate the options for the adoption of aerodynamic technologies.”

In the second joint project between TMC and the PIT Group, Legler noted that to date, 43 developers of electromechanical braking systems (EMBs) have been evaluated to determine the work they are doing on this potential new stopping system for heavy trucks.

EMBs, Legler explained, are airless brake systems that use wheel end-mounted servo motors to apply friction brakes.

In addition, the group is looking at 16 global OEMs known to be working on this technology as well. In both cases, the study is seeking to determine the current “state of design” for this technology, based available technology and any progress made on building prototype systems. Other considerations include technical challenges, limitations and any obstacles that have either been encountered or anticipated.

Looking at the data obtained so far, Legler said the jury was still out on whether EMBs would prove to be a viable technology for heavy trucks. He said that more detailed information was needed before those determinations could be made, and whether or not the technology would eventually prove to be more reliable and safer than current pneumatic brake systems.

This article is published under a content sharing agreement with Heavy Duty Trucking magazine. 

Jack Legler, technical director, TMC, outlines the current state of electromechanical braking system technology at the 2020 TMC Spring Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia. Photo by Jack Roberts

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