"Uptime,” or keeping trucks running and earning money for their fleets and drivers rather than broken down on the side of the road, is a much-touted term in this industry — for good reason.
An out-of-service truck results in $800 to $1,000 in lost revenue per day for a fleet, according to estimates noted in one of the cover stories in this issue of Equipment & Maintenance Update. A variety of factors are now at play, making uptime and fleet maintenance more challenging than ever, including the critical shortage of truck maintenance technicians.
And fleets “are not only trying to find technicians but also competing with the service providers for the same people,” said Jack Legler, technical director for the Technology & Maintenance Council of American Trucking Associations, in the related story on page A7. The industry currently needs to hire about 30,000 maintenance technicians to keep up with demand.
As a result, some trucking companies are rethinking their overall maintenance shop strategies to better determine needed repairs, prioritize workloads and schedule labor.
Read on to find out what they’re doing to maintain and repair their trucks more quickly by making the most of their technicians’ talent and skills, using diagnostic fault codes, telematics and other technologies, as well as a healthy dose of simple, effective communication among maintenance managers, technicians, drivers and all involved in the maintenance shop supply chain.
And speaking of uptime … look up to the maintenance shop sky! It’s not a bird. It’s not a plane. Nor is it Superman.
Rather, it’s a 17,000-pound truck that is to be repaired by technicians who need to access the vehicle’s underside to get it back on the road and back in business. That’s the topic of the other cover story: Just how do they do that?
As the story notes, there are many ways to get a Class 8 truck up in the air. Some maintenance shops are lifting the truck using mobile columns, a method that’s being used by a growing number of fleets. Others use jacks, and have their technicians roll underneath the tractor on “creepers.”
One maintenance director said his fleet uses jacks and jack stands. ”We’ve looked at [lift] technology, and it looks good, but it’s very expensive, and you’ve really got to look at all your aspects of how that’s going to affect your shop flow,” said Brent Hilton, director of maintenance at Maverick USA Inc.
However, the fleet is considering lifts because modern trucks are built low to the ground for aerodynamics, which is making it more difficult for technicians to get underneath them with a creeper, Hilton said.
Read this story to learn what’s up with heavy-duty vehicle lifts, including upcoming technology with an eye toward shop functions, such as work orders and diagnostics, as well as safety.
Finally, safety is paramount in the trucking industry, not only out on the road, but within the confines of the maintenance shop.
Another story in this issue focuses on “lockout-tagout” regulations from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration intended to address potential dangers to technicians when they’re working on trucks. The regulations provide guidance to fleets to reduce the risk of injury, or even death, to truck technicians as they work on trucks.
Read this important story to learn about the lockout-tagout standards pertaining to vehicle maintenance. Because as the wise saying goes: It’s safety first.