Talking shop

Q&A session sparks discussion at TMC's summer meetingPut a couple of dozen fleet maintenance managers and two hundred or more suppliers together in a room for ninety minutes and what do you have?Well, at least at meetings of The Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Assns., what you have is "Shop Talk," a free and open discussion on what does - and sometimes doesn't - work in fleet maintenance

Q&A session sparks discussion at TMC's summer meeting

Put a couple of dozen fleet maintenance managers and two hundred or more suppliers together in a room for ninety minutes and what do you have?

Well, at least at meetings of The Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Assns., what you have is "Shop Talk," a free and open discussion on what does - and sometimes doesn't - work in fleet maintenance management. "Shop Talk" has quickly become one of the most popular features at the three-times-a-year TMC meetings, and the session at the Summer Meeting in Tucson, Ariz., was no exception.

With some initial prodding from veteran fleet managers, the participants moved quickly into question and answer and/or comment mode. For example:

Q. Has anyone had much experience with outsourcing fleet maintenance? [This question was asked by an engineer from England.]

A. We outsource all maintenance for our 50-vehicle fleet with the exception of truck washing. We design the maintenance program, search out good contractors, and maintain tight control of the program.

A. Truck dealers are generally not a good source of preventive maintenance, but they do a good job of fixing what they are told to fix. They'll have all the latest information on vehicles from the dealer(s) they represent, but may or may not have it for other trucks.

A. Our dealer does both repair and preventive maintenance but runs them as separate businesses. A different mindset is required for these two functions.

Q. Have you had any LED lamps stolen?

A. This seems to be a problem mainly at truckstops, but even there the problem has become less as the price of LED lamps goes down.

A. We simply put a steel strap across the lamps to prevent theft. [Several fleets concurred.]

A. Lamps held in by a rubber gasket are easy to pop out. We now use a steel mount.

A. Using Torx screws will discourage or slow down most lamp thieves.

Q. With all the emphasis on training technicians for tomorrow, what's being done to train technicians for today? And what can be done about veteran maintenance personnel who disagree with some of the newer maintenance practices?

A. TMC offers a multi-user CD-ROM version of its Recommended Practices Manual for $2,500. [This would give more technicians access to RPs.] A single-user CD-ROM version now in the works will be offered at a price comparable to that of the print version of the manual.

Q. Do any fleets have experience with consignment parts inventory?

A. We have had limited experience with it for refrigeration-unit parts. Our supplier comes in every two weeks and checks the inventory.

A. We know of one fleet that found it was paying two to three times the market price for some items. You have to maintain tight control.

A. Several truck OEMs are providing automated consignment parts inventory services for fleets through their dealerships.

Q. Has anyone lost wheels or wheel ends?

A. We [a large rental fleet] lost a wheel-end because of insufficient lubricant fill at the factory.

A. After a wheel loss we found that our outside maintenance contractor's torque wrenches were not properly calibrated.

A. We lost a front wheel on a brand new truck. When we investigated, we found that unmatched bearing parts were beingused.

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