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TST manager is dynamite

TORONTO, Ont. - The only award most fleet maintenance managers ever receive is the warm feeling they get when they hear the low hum of a finely tuned engine. Frank Haselden knows that feeling, but now...

REFLECTS WELL:Frank Haselden has been named the Maintenance Manager of the Year.(Photo by John G. Smith)

Frank Haselden has been named the Maintenance Manager of the Year.

(Photo by John G. Smith)

TORONTO, Ont. – The only award most fleet maintenance managers ever receive is the warm feeling they get when they hear the low hum of a finely tuned engine. Frank Haselden knows that feeling, but now he also knows how it feels to win the top award that someone in his profession can receive.

Haselden is vice-president, maintenance/compliance, for TST Overland Express and is based at the company’s Mississauga, Ont. facility. Last month at the closing luncheon of the 37th annual Canadian Fleet Maintenance Seminar, he was presented with the Volvo Canadian Fleet Manager of the Year Award.

In accepting his award, the 25-year industry veteran took a moment to acknowledge all the other maintenance personnel throughout the industry who work quietly behind the scenes to keep trucks moving. Haselden said that it was nice to see the trucking community give recognition to a branch of the industry that rarely receives any. And when posing for pictures, he insists on the chance to surround himself with fellow TST employees; people who he says should share the honor.

“Maintenance managers often have to slow people down and spend the company’s money, and people don’t tend to appreciate that,” he said.

A native of Windsor, Ont., Haselden started his career in the trucking industry as a mechanic’s apprentice in 1975, working for an old automotive hauler called International Carriers. He admits now that he originally got into mechanics to avoid the most readily available source of employment in his hometown.

“Growing up in an automotive town,” Haselden recalls, “in the summertime, most of the high school students would work in the auto plants. But after three summers working for Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, I didn’t want anything more to do with assembly line work. So I got into mechanics.”

After 10 years with International Carriers (in which he rose to the position of maintenance manager), he moved on to Overland in Windsor, but was soon transferred to the company’s main repair facility, located at that time in Woodstock, Ont. He left Overland after three years to take the position of fleet maintenance manager at Labatt’s Breweries, a position he held for seven years before returning to Overland.

Haselden now oversees all aspects of maintenance and compliance for Overland’s fleet of 490 tractors and 1,245 trailers. He manages a team of 56 mechanics and seven apprentices working at the company’s 22 terminals spread throughout Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland and the U.S. The company has Volvo, Freightliner and International tractors, and the average age of equipment is 3-1/2 years old.

In his current capacity as vice-president of maintenance/compliance, he is responsible for all equipment expenses as well as the company’s ISO compliance initiatives.

In presenting the award, Volvo Trucks’ Canadian president, Michael O’Connell, credited Haselden for having a “major impact” on his company’s success, especially in TST Overland’s 1999 National Fleet Safety Award.

It was especially rewarding to be named the Fleet Manager of the Year at a time when maintenance managers are playing a more central role in fleets’ successes, Haselden said. “There have been huge changes to equipment with new technology and the regulatory environment is changing all the time,” he said. “These days, maintenance and compliance go hand-in-hand.”

Given all of the changes in the trucking industry in recent years, Haselden said his biggest challenge has been keeping everyone directly involved in the fleet up to speed.

“About five or six years ago, we had a problem with the new technology,” he said. “We were spending a lot of money putting new equipment in the fleet, and from a driver and mechanic standpoint, they were scared of it, intimidated by it. So we started in-house training programs using designated trainers. We developed courses for our people, training specific to the equipment that we use. We are at the stage now where the guys enjoy the training.”

Training promises to continue to be a challenge for maintenance managers, Haselden said, given the aging population in the industry at one end and the shortage of qualified replacements at the other. “Annual retirements are starting to increase in our field. And replacing them with good, qualified people is tough. I’d call it a major obstacle,” he said.

To combat the problem, Overland runs a full-time, in-house apprenticeship program.

“We are having a hard time hiring like everybody else, and the mechanics that we can hire aren’t trained in the newer technology,” Haselden said. “So we are taking the kids right out of school and training them.”

Haselden is also responsible for driver training at TST Overland, and he is finding that age is becoming a factor in that area as well. He said the average driver with the company is in his mid-50s and has about 25 years of safe driving with the fleet. But for all their skill behind the wheel, Haselden still finds drivers who have trouble embracing new truck technology. For that reason, he also holds equipment-specific training sessions for drivers to ensure they are comfortable with new equipment. That is essential, Haselden said, because the driver usually has the last call on whether a truck is fit to leave the yard.

“We found five or six years ago that the initial industry training that all the drivers had wasn’t to the level that we needed to ensure that the trucks went on the road in a safe manner,” he recalls. “We also found that the drivers were not really comfortable with the inspections they were doing. They were still concerned that they might have trouble at the scales. So we went back and did more sessions until they were comfortable that they had the knowledge to make a decision.”

Being sure of the condition of a vehicle before it reaches the scales is vital for a company like TST Overland because of the nature of its business, explained Haselden. As an LTL carrier running about 35 million kilometres a year, TST Overland is subject to many more inspections than most truckload fleets. “We drive by the scales with some trucks three and four times a day,” he said.

Although he admits the company’s record is not perfect, he says its Commecial Vehicle Operating Record is in good shape. “We have had some compliance problems with some brake adjustment items, so we have converted the fleet to visual stroke indicators so the drivers can visually see the state of the adjustment of their equipment. That has helped tremendously.”

When he isn’t training someone on mechanics or compliance, Haselden still has lots to do, spec’ing parts and equipment for the fleet. He takes a teamwork approach to the spec’ing process, and his main supervisors meet with mechanics throughout the fleet to get a good indication of how new equipment is performing. The supervisors then meet to talk about the merits and problems of various components before Haselden makes the final purchasing decision.

“Usually, about every second year, I will go personally to every terminal and meet with as many drivers as I can and we will talk about spec’s,” he said. “We go through everything in detail, from nuts and bolts to tires and seats.”

From a standpoint of component cost, Haselden uses a computerized system to track all the costs on each specification and each group of vehicles. That allows him to review what the fleet has purchased, and see how it is doing before he orders any new equipment. He said this approach has led to several specification changes over the years.

“What the computer does is tell you if your preconceived notion is right or wrong,” Haselden said. “One example we are in the middle of right now is clutch fans for the engines. We have a particular clutch fan that is working well in most areas of country but in northern parts is not working well at all because dust from the roads is having negative impact on the fan. Computer data revealed the source of that problem.”

Haselden said his biggest challenge when it comes to spec’ing is trying to purchase material that has the lowest possible cost per kilometre. “We are all trying
to extend our maintenance intervals, but we can only go as far as the technology will allow us,” he said.

As if a fleet maintenance manager doesn’t have enough to do spec’ing components and keeping the freight moving, he also has to deal with corporate officials. Ironically, Haselden said that is one part of the job that has been getting easier.

“Over last few years, compliance has been front and center, and it has taken maintenance to a different plateau, if you will, in the corporate structure,” he explains. “What happens is, if we are not compliant and not maintaining properly, we could actually be out of business. We spend a lot of money on maintenance, but it is a cost of doing business – and it has been rising over the years. The (Transportation) Ministry has probably never done as thorough an inspection as they are doing now. In years gone by, you could sneak by a little bit, but no more. It’s got to be right, and it’s got to be right the first time.” n

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