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Frank Haselden is quick to acknowledge the facts of life for maintenance managers: "We often have to slow people down and spend the company's money, and people don't tend to appreciate that." While th...

Frank Haselden is quick to acknowledge the facts of life for maintenance managers: “We often have to slow people down and spend the company’s money, and people don’t tend to appreciate that.” While that may be true, Haselden’s commitment to making TST Overland Express one of the best maintained fleets in the country was appreciated enough to earn him this year’s Volvo Canadian Fleet Maintenance Manager of the Year Award. We caught up with Haselden shortly after he won the coveted award.

MT: A good maintenance plan starts with spec’ing the right components. As vice-president, maintenance/compliance you are responsible for all equipment expenses for your fleet’s 490 tractors and over 1,000 trailers. How do you ensure you spec the right components?

FH: Usually all the maintenance supervisors that would be involved in the specifications before they come to the specification meeting have some interaction with the mechanics in the various locations and watch what’s going on on a daily basis so they have a good feeling about what the equipment does. Usually about every second year I go personally to every terminal and meet with as many drivers as I can and we’ll talk about specifications. We go through the specifications in detail. All the nuts and bolts. We’re up to a level in our specification efforts now that it’s working well. From a component cost standpoint, we have a computerized system to track all the individual component costs on each group of vehicles. So we know before we order what we’ve purchased before and how it has done.

MT: Has that tracking led to important changes in what you spec?

FH: What we found is that quite often in maintenance you have a preconceived notion of how things are doing and what the computer does is tell you if your preconceived notion is right or wrong. One of the things we are in the middle of right now is clutch fans for the engines. We have a particular brand of clutch fan that’s working well in most parts of the country but in the northern parts it’s not working well at all. In the northern parts of the country we tend to run into a lot more dust and it’s having a negative impact on the fan clutch. We are doing research to determine how we are going to change but we are definitely going to change.

MT: Outline how your truck inspections are set up.

FH: They are systems generated. We generate them on two criteria: utilization and working days. Whichever comes up first is when the system calls for an inspection. We basically have three inspections. One inspection would be lube, oil and filter, and we have an inspection sheet that takes about four hours to go through. Our second inspection would be a grease job and the third one is an annual inspection that would include the other two.

MT: When it comes down to deciding if a truck should be on the road, how do you determine who gets the final say ?

FH: We’ve taken the philosophy that no matter how important (a load) is, if the truck isn’t safe it doesn’t go out on the road. The responsibility for that is not only the driver’s but the dispatcher’s and the mechanic’s. If the mechanic says it’s not ready to go out on the road, no matter what it doesn’t go. We run about 35 million km a year and being an LTL fleet that’s in most Ontario cities we run by some scales three-four times a day. We’ve had some compliance problems with brake adjustment and we’ve converted to visual stroke indicators which has helped tremendously.

MT: How do you ensure drivers know what to look for when inspecting their equipment?

FH: We’re on our second version of circle checks. We found five years ago that the initial training that all the drivers had wasn’t to the level that we needed to ensure trucks went on the road in a safe manner. We also found the drivers weren’t really comfortable with the inspection they had done; they were still concerned that they might have troubles at the scales. We went back and did two more sessions of circle checking with the drivers trying to get them comfortable that they had the knowledge to make a decision with. We don’t inspect any of the equipment for the driver. We have run-through bays to deal with any problems the driver finds when he does the inspection. We make it the driver’s responsibility to do a thorough circle check before he goes on the road.

MT: What is your biggest challenge right now?

FH: Trying to purchase equipment with the lowest possible cost per kilometre and at an extremely high reliability level. One of the areas of concern I have is the braking system. We spend a lot time inspecting it and inspecting it and it’s not a system you can feel comfortable with and say leave it for six months and not look at it. We’re all trying to extend our maintenance intervals but we can only go as far as the technology will allow us. –

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