One truck manufacturer’s 24/7 customer service command center keeps the City of Claremont, CA up and running.
By Laurie Place
Fleet managers know that a great deal can go wrong while collecting municipal solid waste and hauling it to a treatment facility. In addition to the challenges of collecting various types of waste, potential troubles include finding and retaining talented employees, coping with snow, extreme heat, crowded streets, traffic, overcrowded bins and, perhaps worst of all, equipment breakdowns.
Steve Keller, Fleet Maintenance Supervisor for the City of Claremont, CA in eastern Los Angeles County, has experienced all of these. In this college town with 35,000 residents, 8,500 curbside trash pickup customers and 380 commercial customers, summertime temperatures sometimes reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit. In the winter, there is snow up near Mt. Baldy at the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.
Claremont’s fleet includes 106 trucks—automated side-loaders and front loaders with some of them running on CNG (compressed natural gas). “Keeping everything going at the same time is a constant challenge,” Keller says. “We don’t run extra trucks. We try to run as lean as possible.” There is one detail Keller does not fret about: how to fix problems with the city’s 14 trucks made by Autocar Trucks.
Keeping Trucks on the Road
What is preventing him from worrying? The answer is a special service called Autocar Solutions®, which the city has received at no extra charge since 2015. It is the availability of the truck manufacturer’s 24/7-customer service command center staffed with technicians based at the Autocar factory in Indiana.
The idea is simple. “It’s to keep trucks on the road,” says Jim Johnston, President of Autocar. “Some customers tell us that using Autocar Solutions is like adding another couple of service techs to their team.” Through special arrangements with distributors across the U.S. and Canada, the truck manufacturer can tap into a network of facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, expert technicians and extended hours when customers need it most.
When Keller and his crew have an urgent concern, they log a ticket online or call for help. “We guess amongst ourselves how long before we get a reply,” Keller says. “It’s never taken more than 5 minutes during the business day, and usually we hear back within a minute. Autocar sticks with you, they record the issues, and use the information in their builds of new trucks.”
Before using Autocar Solutions, some clients’ techs doubt that they will need the extra help, usually believing that they have all the answers or they do not want the boss to find out that they don’t. But after trying the service, they became believers, Johnston says.
In Claremont, Keller considers Autocar Solutions an essential time-saving service. In fact, the National Business Research Institute ranked Autocar Trucks No. 1 in service for two years among the truck OEMs included in the survey.1
While technical problems can be far reaching, in Claremont, “We use Autocar Solutions mainly for electrical issues,” Keller explains. “Autocar people send us wiring schematics. They’ll walk us through fixing the problem. They also can do a quick video chat on a mobile phone. They’ll help you find wire locations, pin locations, whatever you need.”
Keller is a fan of the truck manufacturer’s expertise on thorny electrical challenges. And, he notes, “Everything in an Autocar truck is labeled every few inches so you can find wire locations and pin locations. We can always find the wire we’re looking for.”
Working with All Obstacles
Autocar works with clients on a spectrum of obstacles—parts, warranty issues, maintenance questions, wiring schematics, troubleshooting—not just on Autocar-related parts. The company also coordinates with component suppliers, including Allison and Cummins, to get the parts customers need.
For instance, a customer with a question about a Cummins engine, also made in Indiana, can call the 800 number for Cummins and go through the Cummins’ system. There is even a faster option. “That person could log a ticket with Autocar telling us he has an engine issue and we’ll call our guy at Cummins and get the problem solved. It’s all about leveraging our ability to help the customer,” says Johnston. “We have real expert techs, not operators. We help customers solve their issues and get their trucks back on the road.”
Other companies might help get the truck to a dealer to be diagnosed and repaired on the dealer’s schedule. That takes the truck out of service for days longer. And the goal, of course, is to keep the trucks rolling.
Keller is a believer. “The more we use Autocar Solutions, the more we like it. The best part is it’s personal. The response times, them getting back to us and documenting everything. I don’t know anyone who takes as good care of people as Autocar.”
Laurie Place is a freelance writer based in California.