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When it comes to trailer repairs, integrity should be first on your mindIf your truck or trailer is slated for major surgery, either in the course of modification or repair, maintaining its structural...

When it comes to trailer repairs, integrity should be first on your mind

If your truck or trailer is slated for major surgery, either in the course of modification or repair, maintaining its structural integrity is obviously a must, but there may be more pitfalls than you think.

Manufacturers in the transportation industry spend millions of dollars to ensure they bring quality products to their customers. If corners are cut after the fact, you can certainly expect a jump in downtime and perhaps ever shorter total product life. That was the main message Tony Trubiano, of Huck Fasteners, presented to delegates attending the 38th annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar.

“In the case of truck cabs, all of the components are integral parts,” he says. “That includes everything right down to the fasteners: If you take out a #8 lock bolt you better make sure you put one back in.”

Otherwise, he warns, you’re often going to end up with more cab noise, squeeks or even leaks.

In the case of trailers, he stresses that these are often “lean, mean manufacturing processes.” Weight is usually hyper-critical so anything incorporated into the design is meant to be there for a reason; there are no superfluous parts.

“You don’t make money when your trailers are in the shop,” says Trubiano. He explains this can lead to some seemingly difficult choices – but upon closer inspection, there’s no choice at all. “Replacing a structural fastener with a nail rivet may seem to make sense,” he adds, “but long-term, it’s just problems.”

If modifications are the order of the day, Paron Industries’ Dunc Sinclair insists that talking to the OEM is critical before making any additions or gussets.

“We know the materials used in construction … Take advantage of that engineering support,” he says. “Besides, if you tackle it on your own without our help, you own the liability. If you don’t know the math that went into the design, it’s a loaded gun.”

He adds that for this very reason, most manufacturers are hesitant to modify any of their competitors’ products.

There are safeguards to protect the customer and the public, but he explains they don’t do a lot of good if the people you trust to make the modification aren’t on the level.

When you add an axle, for example, he stresses that the brake timing needs to be recertified.

“It’s the law,” he explains cautioning that, “a lot of smaller shops don’t always comply.”

When you take a trailer in for major repairs, Sudbury Kenworth’s Jim Riddle insists his old-school way of thinking may no longer be in fashion, but it can save a lot of headaches a year or two down the road.

“I think computers are great for doing graphs and charts, but they can’t turn a crescent wrench worth a (damn),” he says. “If I’m broken-down, I don’t want a Web designer or Internet provider to come out and fix my truck.”

He says his hands-on upbringing has helped him learn to identify the repairs shoddy mechanics will try to pass off on their customers in order to make a few more bucks.

“A strategically placed hockey puck or a pack of Wal-Mart washers,” are both things he says fleets need to watch out for when picking up equipment from the repair shop.

What’s the big deal with shimming a spring? It’s huge, insists Riddle. “You can end up with premature tire wear or handling problems,” he explains. “In some cases, a mechanic will also arc a spring out to hide a crooked frame.”

Anyone who doesn’t have a problem with this sort of negligence should be forced to make any subsequent repairs to the vehicle.

“If you’ve got the front shimmed and break the windshield you should watch the guy try to fix it,” concludes Riddle. “Once the glass is out and the pressure is off, the opening can actually change shape.”

Teamwork will get the industry over the economic hump, Michelin’s Rice advises

By John Curran

Teamwork between manufacturers, vendors and fleets could be the deciding factor that will pull them all through possible rougher economic times.

John B. Rice, executive vice president of Michelin North America Inc., elaborated on this theme during his speech to members at the 38th Annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar banquet, held recently in Toronto.

Truck OEMs now are seeing orders down by 75 percent and cancellations have tripled. Only the fleets that are certain are ordering trucks now, said Rice. The OE tire market has experienced a 20 percent drop, said Rice, largely because of soaring raw materials prices.

“The good news is that tires are built to be more and more specific to the needs of fleets than ever before, and proper tire selection is the key to lower operational costs for fleets. So to avoid becoming a casualty, fleets should develop teamwork and partnerships with key suppliers,” advised Rice.

The partnerships that do develop, he said, must be of mutual benefit with the most important criteria being integrity and natural fit. Michelin, said Rice, has developed the “PSI” solution -products, services and value-added information, as part of its manufacturer-fleet partnership initiative. Fleets should be demanding high levels of quality and value-added services from their manufacturers and vendors, but shouldn’t look necessarily at the cheapest price on the bottom line, said Rice.

“Can you depend on the company’s products and services? The vendor must also understand your business. The lowest initial price products are not the answer. The key is the lowest overall cycle and system costs,” said Rice.

When it comes to service, the key ingredient you should demand is high quality service, not generic services that aren’t value-added, said Rice. “The onus is also on the vendor, whose sales staff must understand needs, maintain levels of quality and service and commit research and development resources,” said Rice.

Information is another important service, but it also must go beyond to provide quick and quality information such as diagnostics, purchasing records, industry news and analysis.

Rice said that only through committed partnerships can the transportation industry as a whole ensure some degree of profitability.

“We must do more with less and depend on each other with mutual respect, benefit and profitability,” he said.

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