Obviously as a technician and business owner my perspective will be different from that of O/Os, drivers, and that of the many businesses that use trucks in their operations. From where I sit, the things that make trucks reliable are the same things that reduce operating costs; good decisions, attention to detail, and preventive (truly) maintenance and inspection.
Inspecting vehicles is really everyone’s job. Drivers, techs, managers, etc. Obviously, when problems are found and reported, this must be followed up by whomever is responsible for maintenance. It doesn’t take people long to figure out if problems are being addressed or they are wasting pen and ink filling out trip inspection forms and maintenance requests.
Finding problems before the failure is probably the easiest way to save money (lots of it); the size of the fleet is irrelevant. That would be all fleets with more than zero pieces of equipment.
The squeaking and then clunking noises you’ve been hearing was your truck, first asking for grease and then asking you to schedule repairs. Finally the poor, abused, neglected, and generally lonely truck decided it would schedule a day in the shop with other trucks that were also taking a break.
If you don’t schedule and plan for repairs/maintenance the truck will arrange it for you, usually at the worst possible moment. You can add in all the other possible costs including downtime, towing, second truck, etc.
Good decisions include spec’ing the right equipment for the job, timely servicing and corrosion protection. Rust is often the determining factor where longevity is concerned.
If you can slow the corrosion process, quite a few years will be added to the service life of your equipment. Start with training for all of those involved in vehicle ops: drivers, techs, managers, etc. Of course this is all very easy to say.
The one ‘solution’ that doesn’t work is saying “We need to save money, stretch out the maintenance and don’t repair anything unless it won’t move.”
Repairs cost more that way. Funny thing is, if you run equipment to break down, your equipment is always breaking down. It’s easier to accept maintenance as an operating cost rather than using luck and wishful thinking and hoping nothing goes wrong.
I can’t remember a day where nothing went wrong.
Good relationships between all the people involved goes a long way to solving problems and saving money (and time). I have experienced places that seem to be a battleground with people actively sabotaging the efforts of others. Drivers, techs, office staff, dispatchers, managers – can’t we be friends, or at least civil to each other?
Friction makes for a very unpleasant environment that tends to be wasteful. Simple things like making sure all the radios work, or having the maintenance department install driver-supplied stereo equipment (allowing drivers to install radios leads to disastrous wiring and electronics issues) goes a long way to improving the atmosphere.
When drivers and operators know you will repair things just to make their day more pleasant, they’ll start reporting problems and you’ll be able to address them before the truck stops at the side of the road have to.
Hey, you fixed the radio, can you fix the door latch and the air leak on the suspension as well? Then both problems don’t get you held up at the scales, ticketed or worse. Operators are happier and the day goes by with less frustration, so more loads are picked up and delivered on time. Everybody is happier and pulling (hopefully) in the same direction. Oh yeah, there are two air lines rubbing on the torque rod, can you secure those for me, too? When problems get addressed, operators will report them and then there will be fewer and fewer problems.
What about checklists? Some work, some don’t – period. If you give a driver an inspection checklist that has items that require technical training and equipment to inspect properly, you’ll get a lot of useless info (check marks) and checklists that, once filled out, do not reflect reality.
The same applies to technicians given lists that include load binders and safety flares. You’ll get great paperwork. Technicians will not count or care about load binders or safety flares, that’s the driver’s responsibility. People know when they’re wasting their time.
Well-designed checklists save effort and improve accuracy. Of course if there is no follow-up, the program will fail. Repairs actually need to be performed. Maintenance is more than check marks and neat files.
When they are performed in a timely fashion with efforts aimed at preventing failures before they occur, the results are fewer breakdowns, greater reliability, happier operators, more reliable everything, and obviously, much better customer service.
Good maintenance saves time and money (and more money). Even without all the added incidentals, good maintenance costs less.
We’ve all seen/heard the expression “If you think safety is expensive, try an accident.”
Well, if you think good maintenance is expensive, try a few breakdowns far from home – just to make it even more fun.
Ken Bastien holds a 310T and 310S and interprovincial standards on both and has been licensed since 1982. He currently owns and operates Simcoe Truck and Trailer and Canadatruckwash.com in Barrie, Ont. You can reach him at email@example.com.