Spec'ing to eliminate blind spots
Manager: Rick Galliher
Title: Owner and president
Fleet: 1-800-Got-Junk Franchise for Northern Virginia
Operation: Six medium-duty trucks with specialized dump bodies
When Galliher opened his 1-800-Got-Junk franchise, he quickly discovered that backing the trucks up in tight urban areas was a major hassle in terms of both safety and cost. Despite having six mirrors and one member of the truck's two-man crew behind the vehicle giving directions, drivers inevitably backed into things because of the large blind spot created by the specialized dumpster bodies on his equipment.
While trying to turn around on a busy suburban street, one of his crews nicked the radiator of a passenger car that had been in the truck's blind spot. “It was a minor accident — no vehicle body damage and no one hurt,” he recalls. “But I didn't want anything worse to ever happen.”
At the time, the simplest solution seemed to be a bumper-mounted backup alarm with five sensors wired to a display in the cab, which produced an ever-increasing series of beeps the closer the truck got to an object. After Galliher purchased the backup alarm he realized his equipment didn't have bumpers, which is where the device was supposed to be attached.
In addition, he discovered that the system's computer was designed to fit snugly into the trunk of a car or inside the back of a recreational vehicle, where it would be fully protected from the elements. On Galliher's equipment, however, the unit's sensitive computer and sensors would be fully exposed to debris, moisture and temperature variations, as well as subjected to bumps and dings when the body was raised and lowered during loading and unloading.
Galliher took his truck to his local garage, G&C Express. Initially, he thought that welding 8-in. steel bumpers onto his trucks would do the trick. A closer look, however, proved otherwise.
“There were two problems. We needed to fit the device into a $10 weather-tight box, and configure the bumper around it for more protection,” Galliher explains. “Then we needed to recess the unit under the frame so when we tipped up the dump body, it wouldn't be exposed to falling debris or get banged by the dump unit itself.” That meant welding a series of 3- and 4-in. steel pieces in angled positions under the rear frame.
The price of the alarm system and labor for welding and wiring added up to $1,000. It wasn't a cheap solution, but it was a reliable one. Galliher found that out when he tried to get two new trucks equipped with backup alarm systems at the dealer before delivery. “They came attached with plastic clips right on the back of the dump body, so several got damaged and had to be replaced,” he says.
Trying out a cheaper $150 rear-view camera system didn't work either. “It proved too sensitive,” Galliher notes. “I had to replace two TV monitors in the cab and two camera lenses at the rear of the truck. It just didn't hold up.”
The lesson for Galliher: A little more money and local control for a specialized safety upfit makes all the difference in terms of durability and longevity. “It comes down to productivity and ease of operation,” he explains. “These trucks need to be rolling to make money.”
Maintenance Bay presents case studies detailing how fleets resolve maintenance-related issues.