Maintenance bay: Spares on hand

Manager: Grady “Pete” Carpenter

Title: CEO/president

Fleet: PACtrucking, Nashville, TN

Operation: FedEx Ground contractor with a fleet of 21 tractors and 31 drivers

Problem: In the beginning, trucking used to be very simple for Pete Carpenter and his wife Christine. They joined North American Van Lines as a husband and wife driving team in 1982 almost by accident. This was a way to go on what Carpenter called “an extended adventure” to visit every nook and cranny of the U.S.

The simplicity of their shared trucking career stemmed from the fact that they only had one truck. For over a decade, they worked for North American and FedEx Express, during which time they didn’t even have a home to worry about. They just lived and worked in their truck.

All that changed abruptly, however, when the Carpenters landed a dedicated route with FedEx Ground 13 years ago. They bought out three other FedEx Ground contractors and suddenly found themselves running a multi-vehicle trucking business.

“I stepped out of driving a truck for good in 2007 so I could focus on the business,” Pete Carpenter explains. “A good friend of mine once told me that anybody can drive a truck; it’s those who manage all the paperwork right and focus on being profitable that succeed in this business. So I became a ‘paperwork freak’ full time.”


Managing downtime for maintenance proved to be one of the more challenging aspects of running a trucking business versus running just a single vehicle. Vehicle downtime directly impacts on-time delivery targets—and that’s a very big deal when pulling doubles for FedEx Ground.

“The better your on-time delivery metrics, the more ‘points’ you earn, and those points allow you to bid on the best lanes FedEx Ground offers,” says Carpenter. “For that reason alone, sometimes it is worth just skipping warranty- recovery efforts outright, pay the full price for parts and service, and just get back up and running and out on the road.”

But even Carpenter realized that paying through the nose for parts and service every time one of his tractors needed fixing would catch up to him in the end. So, to contain both expected and unexpected maintenance costs, PACtrucking sticks to a strict maintenance routine for all of its tractors. It also keeps four spare tractors handy in case backup is needed.

“My biggest challenge is that since we are an expedited, time-sensitive carrier, we can’t predict what will go wrong with a vehicle,” he explains. “That’s why we keep four spare trucks; in case anything happens to one of our primary linehaul vehicles, we can dispatch a spare to take over its load.”

Carpenter found that the four spare trucks, out of 21 his company operates, also help fill in the gap when one of PACtrucking’s primary tractors needs to be shut down for routine preventive maintenance.

“We run our fleet Tuesday through Saturday, averaging about 5,000 mi. per truck per week,” he explains. “We conduct a full inspection on each truck every 15,000 mi. and change the engine’s oil every other inspection [at 30,000 mi.]. I also rotate all the tires every 80,000 mi.”

Carpenter is a big believer in what he calls “proactive maintenance,” meaning if a component is closing in on its replacement point or looks ready to give out, he’ll go ahead and have it replaced.

“If we’re close but not quite there on the service interval, we’ll still go ahead and have it done,” Carpenter says. “It’s not worth it to have a vehicle go down because you tried to extend the life of one part, because you end up spending much more on unplanned downtime than you do when it’s planned.”

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