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Spec for your future

WINNIPEG, Man. - The longer a truck can safely go without service, the more money its driver can conceivably make. That may sound like an obvious statement, but when it comes to low maintenance spec'i...


LOOK SHARP: Spec'ing and a keen eye keep Wishart's costs low.
LOOK SHARP: Spec'ing and a keen eye keep Wishart's costs low.

WINNIPEG, Man. – The longer a truck can safely go without service, the more money its driver can conceivably make. That may sound like an obvious statement, but when it comes to low maintenance spec’ing are you doing all you should?

For one Winnipeg owner/operator, Ross Wishart, his truck has a real fleet flavor to it and it shows on his bottom line.

“My maintenance is virtually nil,” he says. While Wishart credits driving habits for a lot of his success, buying equipment that’s a little more robust has also played a part in keeping his 1999 Volvo 610 earning money instead of burning it. And that goes for any of the trucks he’s owned over his 13-year career.

“I’ve got a ceramic clutch … I’ve never had to put a clutch in. I’ve never even had to do the brakes on any of my trucks,” he says. “Service costs $180/month or $2,160/year.”

Breaking it out on a cost-per-mile basis, he estimates that over the 130,000 miles he ran last year, that works out to only 1.6 cents per mile spent on servicing his truck.

“My maintenance is very cheap.”

Even tire selection – coupled with a little care when driving – can give a big boost, Wishart insists.

“I just changed my drives – I got over 500,000 km on them,” he says. “That’s less than a penny a mile for tires, you can’t beat that.”

You’ve got to constantly check your vehicle, mind you. You could fix something for $5 today that may cost you $500 next week, he insists. He has seen co-workers that haven’t enjoyed the same success over the years.

“A good friend of mine went for a safety and it was $4,500,” says Wishart. “He had to get his whole front-end done … when you go for a safety it shouldn’t be a big bill.”

These types of numbers grow exponentially when you consider large fleets. TransX, recently named one of Canada’s Best 50 Managed Private Companies by the Financial Post, saved thousands when it made a simple switch to a low maintenance hub-spec says Brian Hiebert, the Winnipeg fleet’s equipment maintenance manager.

“A couple of years ago, we were having a problem with our steer axle bearings,” he says. “We changed to LMS hubs on our steer axles.”

Hiebert estimates the move to Conmet’s permanently lubed hubs probably eliminated about 75 to 100 wheel-bearing failures.

“Wheel maintenance costs had been very high quite simply because of the problems that evolved with front wheel bearings,” he says. Fill procedures for semi-synthetic greases were flawed and after a year or two in service, wheel bearings were burning-out all over the continent.

“About 99 per cent of our wheel bearing failures were running us between $150 and $200,” says Hiebert. “But we’d get some that happen out on the road that cost a lot more … if you burr up a spindle, it can be $2,000.”

After experiences like this TransX’s truck spec never has a chance to stagnate. Hiebert insists it’s constantly refined and updated.

“As improved products come out, we’ll do testing on them,” he says. “We’ll put them in about 10 units and we’ll monitor them and if it’s advantageous to us then we incorporate it into our spec.”

He estimates this tweaking occurs almost every year, depending on what shows up on the market.

“We have a great relationship with Eaton Corp.,” says Hiebert. “We spec an Eaton (and Dana) driveline – from the steer right through to the back axle; clutch, transmission, everything.”

He says TransX generally flips its trucks every two years and the Roadranger line (Eaton and Dana’s components packaged together under the companies’ joint marketing agreement) more than lasts.

“When we buy, we want a product that is going to last for as long as we’ll keep it,” without the need for major overhauls or rebuilds, says Hiebert. “If there is a problem, they look after it.” n


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