Air Compressors on the PM Schedule?

Feb. 2, 2015
Overlooking the air compressor in your mobile service trucks isn't just costly, it can also be dangerous.

A mobile technician was working out of his truck as he does each and every day. He got to work, fired up his laptop to sign in so he could start his hourly payroll clock. Then he  started his daily yard check on the group of trailers he is responsible for. He was checking lights, airing tires, checking for air leaks, and testing brake chambers and strokes, as well as servicing the reefers, He was doing all of the things we want a tech to do and had been doing so for many years. In short, he was a loyal and dedicated employee working in warm, cold and even severe outdoor conditions. But maybe complacency was his new friend.

So on this particular day he starts the same as he does every day but then the unexpected happens -- the air compressor air reservoir tank explodes and severely hurts the employee. Rest easy, he is ok, but it could have been a fatal accident that would have affected many lives.

Inspection showed that the air reservoir separated at a seam that was rusted and did not leak but instead caused a traumatic explosion resulting in bodily injury. A freak accident or an avoidable one?  Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have your air compressors on your PM scheduler?
  • Do you PM the compressor?
  • Do you look at the tank integrity, or do you just change the oil and blow out the air filter.
  • Do you drain the water out of the bottom of the tank?
  • Do you make it easy to drain the tank with a remote air line to a petcock, or have an automatic drain valve?
  • Do you put a PM sticker on the air compressor when the PM is completed?

I polled a few fleet maintenance managers and most said: “No, we just change the oil when we do the pickup truck.” Most fleets use and reuse air compressors, buying a new one only when they blow up from lack of oil. It’s probably the most overlooked component on a service truck next to the Start All.

As a rule I have always put air compressors, shop air jacks, and other shop equipment on the PM schedule for tickler inspection. Many fleets have an outside vendor provide maintenance and inspection on shop air compressors. In many cases the shop pickup or mobile service truck is overlooked. I would suggest, as does this fleet manager now, that the air compressor in the service trucks be put on a separate PM schedule requiring at minimum that the oil be checked, the air tank drained and the entire unit be checked for rust. Then place your PM sticker on the air compressor tank.

This fleet now has a daily DVIR process on all mobile service trucks were a technician is assigned and all shop equipment and now has a PM scheduled in the system for management control purposes.

Their air compressors are now neither forgotten nor forgiven.

About the Author

Darry Stuart | President

Darry Stuart has more than 45 years of experience in the transportation industry. As President/ CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services, he has been providing “Limited Time Executive" services in transportation and fleet equipment management to a variety of companies.

An ASE-certified master technician, Stuart began his career on the shop floor before moving on to fleet management executive positions at Perdue Chicken, BFI (Browning-Ferris Industries), United Truck Leasing, the  Keen  Companies, and Cumberland Farms/Gulf Oil.

For 35 years, Stuart has been an active member of the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Assns., serving as the group’s general chairman from 2007-2008. He is the recipient of numerous industry awards, including TMC's Silver Spark Plug, which is given in recognition of an individual's outstanding contributions to the cause of excellence in heavy-duty vehicle maintenance management. He has been cited as an industry expert or authored over  250 articles on equipment and fleet management topics.

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