Implementing proper maintenance and leveraging the tools, data and resources available are the easiest ways to ensure you are doing everything you can to keep your fleet up and running as much as possible.
By Robert Mecchi

Unexpectedly, a truck on route experiences a failure, forcing a sequence of events costing valuable time and money. Depending on the failure, both a service truck is sent to get the front-line truck operational and a substitute truck is sent out to complete the route. To make matters worse, the service truck is manned by the best (and well paid!) tech. Three trucks, three drivers and support personnel are occupied and offsite due to an often-avoidable failure.

Situations like this are not uncommon when it comes to fleets. Not only is downtime expensive because of the cost of the repair, but the cascade effect and ancillary costs of the situation can also compound. What steps do you need to take to keep costs down and your trucks running?

Paying attention to both preventative and predictive maintenance provides two avenues to easily keep up with your fleet without making significant and abrupt changes to your operation.

Identify Preventative Maintenance
Preventive maintenance is not a novel concept. It is the backbone of nearly all fleet management programs. Every fleet manager has a goal to ensure that trucks are up and running without any unscheduled downtime, which is costly not only through part replacement, but also through the expensive domino effect that ensues.

Fleet managers currently have all the tools needed to properly monitor and maintain your fleet to keep it in order and compliant while being more cost-effective. How you leverage the operations you already have in place is the difference between large, unexpected expenses and keeping your truck on the road.

With uptime as the most critical factor in fleet maintenance, creating a stringent maintenance program is the first step to offset any unforeseen issues. Going beyond the pre- and post-route inspections limits unforeseen issues.

Aside from merely conducting a cursory visual inspection of the truck, it is necessary to also inspect and measure the mechanical parts and look for something irregular in the way it operates. For example, the gripper for an automated side-loader can operate thousands of times a day. Simply making sure that anything with barring or a pin that is getting movement is well maintained can limit unexpected downtime.
Catching a small problem at the beginning stages allows for a quick and relatively inexpensive repair before it becomes a larger problem. It is a lot easier to address a small leak in a hose than a ruptured hose later, especially on the route. Those cascading costs could also include environmental cleanup.

Ignoring regular maintenance creates a vicious cycle: it puts a truck at risk of breaking down in the middle of a route and being taken out of commission, placing a strain on the other vehicles in the fleet leading to possible overuse and additional costly breakdowns and repairs.

In addition to the work completed on the vehicle, be sure to give attention to areas that may not come top-of-mind such as roadside assistance, vehicle replacement processes and ongoing driver training.

Leverage Big Data for Big Savings
The simple fact is that trucks break, and we need to fix them. While there is no answer to prevent maintenance on heavy-duty trucks entirely, there are measures to help both offset and plan in advance to better predict when these costly repairs need to be made.

Preventive maintenance helps circumvent unexpected repairs, but the real key to keeping your fleet up and moving is predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance does not replace preventive maintenance but complements it to avoid costs that occur between cycles. A dashboard light notification should not be the indicator that something needs to be addressed. By that time, the damage may already be done and could result in damaging other components.

The key to predictive maintenance is data and analytics, starting with tracking the hours your vehicle is running, logging when parts fail and replaced, along with engine oil sampling. The data gathered provides metrics and knowledge to know when to solve an issue before it becomes a problem.

Planning for maintenance in advance provides the opportunity to budget expenses and prepare for when and how many vehicles are out of service.

It is no secret that engines eventually need to be rebuilt, but the real question is when: after or before failure? Brake liners, while measured during the A – Service, do have a common interval for replacement amongst the same fleet. Knowing the number of hours a component or part has failed in the past allows for future planning. Implementing and ensuring the use of a maintenance tracking program allows to analytically measure your fleet and provides the knowledge you need to plan for the required maintenance and limit unscheduled downtime. It will also allow time to budget for the parts and develop a plan to cover for the vehicle while it is out of commission.

Catching problems early before they result in a breakdown can save fleet maintenance costs resulting in more productive technicians and increased driver safety.

Help on the Road and at Home
Finding a qualified technician to join your staff is one of the biggest challenges fleets face daily. Simply filling the position is not necessarily the point, but identifying a fabricator or mechanic that is the right person for your operation can take more time than you have to give. Hiring just to fill a position can be costly and waiting to find the perfect candidate can also result in a more significant blow to the bottom line.
Knowing the resources you have to help with repairs can help alleviate this stress. Driving around with equipment that is not operating at its best is dangerous, unproductive and may be subject to costly fines.
Facilities like one the shown in Figure 1 offer full-service repair, maintenance, inspection and installation services. From garbage trucks to roll-off trucks, from compactors to residential carts and all the equipment in between, there are professionals available to help ease the strain fleets are experiencing. Factory-trained body fabricators and repair technicians work to improve and accelerate the typical repair process, minimizing downtime while maximizing productivity.


Figure 1: Amrep front loader truck gets inspection at Pompano Beach, FL Wastequip WRX facility. Photo courtesy of Wastequip.

The Bottom Line
The goal always has been and always will be to do whatever it takes to keep your fleet up and running as much as possible. Thoroughly check the vehicle pre- and post-route. Track the hours and use of every component on the truck to offset unexpected repairs. Know the resources you have at your disposal to fix problems quickly. Implementing proper maintenance and leveraging the tools, data and resources available are the easiest ways to ensure you are doing everything you can in your power to achieve this goal. | WA

Robert Mecchi joined Wastequip (Charlotte, NC) in 2019 as the VP of Business Development responsible for expanding the company’s tarps and parts store footprint. In 2020, Robert was named Vice President of Sales for the Tarps and Parts Division with responsibility for outside sales for tarps and parts. Additionally, Robert leads development and expansion of Wastequip WRX, their new parts, service and installation facilities. Robert has served on the Board of Directors for EREF, the Chairman of WASTEC Board of Governors and WASTEC’s statistics program. He was honored as WASTEC’s Member of the Year in 2007, and he was awarded Waste and Recycling News Rising Star in 2013, and he received the Air Quality Leadership Award from the Houston Galveston Area Council in 2015. Robert can be reached at (813) 440-8136 or e-mail [email protected].