Metropolitan invests a significant amount of money in premium Class 8 tractors, both to give its drivers the best cabs to work and to project a high-class image to customers.
But, points out Wayne Beaudry, protecting that investment requires addressing a critical question:
How can maintenance expenses be minimized while ensuring that reliability, performance and resale value are not compromised?
“On the maintenance side, we have to guarantee that the truck is going to live out the life cycle we expect from it,” Beaudry says, noting that Metropolitan typically runs its trucks for five years or 600,000 miles.
“Premium equipment is the standard at Metropolitan because our goal is to give our drivers as many comfortable yet safe and law abiding miles as possible,” he states. “That's why we inspect all our equipment regularly.”
Metropolitan serves all points east of the Mississippi, including Texas, Louisiana and Minnesota. Its fleet consists of 315 late model Freightliner and Volvo tractors, mostly equipped with high-roof sleepers, along with 825 53-ft. van trailers.
Company trucks are equipped with a Qualcomm mobile communications system, air-ride, cruise control and high-horsepower engines. Through continuous upgrading and updating, Beaudry says Metropolitan's tractor fleet now averages less than two years in age. Trailers average less than four years. In addition, Metropolitan's drivers are assigned to their own late-model tractor.
Manager: Wayne Beaudry
Title: Director of maintenance
Fleet: Metropolitan Trucking, Patterson, NJ
Operation: Regional truckload carrier
Beaudry turned to engine oil sampling to help keep tabs on the health of Metropolitan's equipment. He says the information gained is reducing maintenance costs and potentially boosting resale value.
The money savings come from the ability to extend oil drain intervals safely without risking damage to the engines.
“There are lots of items that warn you something's not right,” he says. “Chromium in the oil means you're getting wear on your piston rings, while iron deposits indicate wear on the cylinder liners.”
Thanks to oil sampling providing a safety net of sorts, Beaudry has pushed oil drain intervals from 15,000 out to 30,000 miles for Metropolitan's over-the-road tractors. He's stuck to a 15,000-mile interval for trucks running city routes.
“Extending the oil drain saved us money on oil and oil filter changes, but the real savings came from reduced shop labor time and more productive time for the trucks,” Beaudry explains.
“It's harder to put a finger on the value oil sampling provides in terms of resale value, but we do use it as a marketing tool when we cycle out our trucks,” he continues.
One pleasant surprise from the oil-sampling program resulted from his initial concerns about the higher soot levels expected in engines from the EGR process. “We ended up with a much lower soot level than I expected from our '04 Detroit Diesel engines,” he relates.
Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.