Shade-tree mechanic

March 1, 2013
The time-honored practice of repairing a truck yourself is over

The days of parking a truck in the lot and tearing down an engine are long past. Instead, the best course of action for the micro- and small motor carrier is investing time in finding, hauling and delivering loads.

Just as trucking has become specialized, so has repair and maintenance of commercial trucks. In today’s preventive maintenance (PM) world, there are expensive specialized tools and equipment required plus service, maintenance and recalls with which a professional mechanic has to keep up. As one of today’s trucking company owners growing your net worth, you must keep your trucks loaded and rolling rather than spending time under those trucks. You’re rightfully focused on finding that next load, getting it delivered, keeping orderly records, networking, marketing, upgrading knowledge and skills, developing new customers, and spending time with your family.

Of course, you must keep a watchful eye on your truck(s). And it requires a minimum of three people to be truly vigilant: the truck owner, the driver and an assigned certified heavy-duty diesel mechanic. While the owner and driver can be the same person, there always needs to be a qualified mechanic as the other set of eyes. This ensures that what one misses, the other one will find. And in the heavily scrutinized world of CSA and DOT inspections, this is very important. It’s also a great contributor to your bottom line; it allows you to catch small problems before they grow into major repairs or replacements. You can accomplish this by maintaining a truck inspection schedule and log. In this inspection program, it’s first the driver’s responsibility to inspect the truck, log any mechanical concerns, and schedule maintenance and repairs with the truck’s assigned mechanic. It’s the mechanic’s job to review the trucker’s inspection logs to determine the maintenance and repair requirements of the truck, and schedule them in a timely manner to reduce truck downtime. This inspection log is filled out daily during the pretrip and post-trip inspections, fuel island checks, or any time the driver gets out of the truck. These should be integrated with your total preventive maintenance program. Just as you’re the expert in your trucking business, your mechanic is your truck’s maintenance and repair expert.

Benefits of an effective PM inspection program include: 1. A reduction of unscheduled downtime 2. The ability to schedule when your truck is in the shop, increasing revenue and cash flow by eliminating lost or delayed loads 3. Increased value in your truck 4. An improved CSA Basics score with zero violation roadside inspections This machine (your truck), like all machines, has maintenance requirements that won’t be denied. If they’re ignored, there will be a significant price to pay. Invest your preventive maintenance time and dollars wisely with a plan, which becomes your best tool by ensuring profitability and compliance with CSA. Take care of your equipment with a proactive PM program—and that program will take care of you.

About the Author

Timothy Brady

Timothy Brady is an author, columnist, speaker and business coach who provides information, training and educational presentations for small to large trucking companies, logistics organizations and community groups. He’s the business editor for American Trucker Magazine, the “Answer Guy” for trucking education website, an author and business editor for Write Up The Road Publishing & Media and freelance journalist. An expert in crafting solutions to industry challenges after 25 years in trucking, Brady’s held positions from company driver to owner-operator to small trucking business owner. Along with sales and business management, he has a well-rounded wealth of experience and knowledge.

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