Developing a Truckmaintenance Schedule

September 1, 2004
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Developing a Truckmaintenance Schedule

Good vehicle maintenance practices are essential. Regularly scheduled preventive maintenance helps eliminate avoidable problems that adversely impact your vehicles’ reliability and uptime. What’s more, making a repair during this time is considerably less time consuming, aggravating and costly than having an on-the-road breakdown and service.
Besides the costs and downtime, breakdowns and unscheduled downtime make for unhappy drivers. And delayed deliveries cause problems for customers, which breeds discontent.
A key to heading off potential vehicle difficulties before they disrupt your operation is to create a preventive maintenance (PM) program with a systematic schedule of detailed inspections and maintenance intervals. Such a program needs to be designed to catch the little things that bring vehicles into the shop, and to get maximum reliability and uptime.
To accomplish this, you must first know what is causing your fleet’s on-the-road breakdowns and unscheduled downtime. If you don’t already do so, track these problems.
Next, create a comprehensive inspection checklist/report. This, say truck maintenance experts, is the foundation to an effective PM program. They recommend this checklist/report be in-depth, covering everything from bumper to bumper. The object here is to uncover and correct even small problems before they reach the point of failure.
The most successful PM programs include not only such preventive actions, but predictive measures as well. Predictive measures involve making repairs at some predetermined time and mileage interval to ensure that failures do not happen. Be advised, these intervals must be continually adjusted according to changes in your equipment and operation.
Two other very important elements of effective maintenance programs are drivers and service technicians. Drivers who are well-trained and very familiar with the equipment they operate can find problems with their trucks and report them to the maintenance department. Likewise, service technicians need to be skilled, properly trained and kept up-to-date on the equipment they will be working on. Make sure they receive any and all service and information bulletins from the truck, equipment and components manufacturers.
There also needs to be a detailed driver’s vehicle inspection report for daily truck pre-trip inspections, along with a system in place to respond to any defects, problems or deficiencies likely to affect the safe operation of a vehicle or which might result in its mechanical breakdown.
As an aside, well-documented preventive maintenance and repair can add to the price of a truck when it comes time to sell or trade in.
As was noted in last month’s column, preventive maintenance actually begins when you spec out new equipment. Greater durability and reliability can be had with longer-life components and components that require low or no maintenance. Investigate whether synthetic lubricants — which can extend servicing intervals — would work in your operation. Additional benefits of such components are reduced life-cycle costs and increased vehicle uptime.
Consider using on-board electronics and diagnostics to help you develop better PM practices. Computers on engines and other truck components can provide valuable operational information. Dash displays that give fault-code messages can also help by alerting drivers to a developing problem.
When it comes time to acquire new equipment, always check with vehicle and component manufacturers to learn about the latest advances and new products. Vehicle technology and electronics are constantly evolving.
The overall goal of a preventive maintenance program, truck maintenance experts advise, is to have a vehicle go from one PM service to the next without a breakdown or a driver write-up that brings it into the shop.
Once a solid PM program is established and in place, do not become complacent. Maintenance practices and products are constantly changing. Consequently, your program needs to be reviewed periodically to see if improvements can be made, as well as to ensure that current procedures are being followed. BI
Tire-related problems
The No. 1 cause of road service and unscheduled downtime for most fleets is tire-related problems, say truck maintenance experts. These include flat tires from objects in the road and tire sidewall, wheel and value-stem damage from drivers hitting and scrubbing curbs, barriers and so forth.
Most often, though, tire failures occur because of improper inflation. An under-inflated tire has the same effect as overloading a tire. Heat builds up in the tire’s casing, which leads to increased sidewall flexing, weakening it, and ultimately leading to a failure.
Proper inflation pressure is difficult to maintain because tires naturally lose air, according to the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB). It recommends that truck tire air pressure be checked on a regular basis, preferably once a week, using a quality calibrated air gauge and while the tires are cold.
“A hammer or ‘tire billy’ is not an accurate measure of pressure,” TRIB points out. “Trying to determine if your tires need air by thumping them is the same as trying to determine if your engine needs oil by thumping the hood of your truck.”
Proper tire maintenance is essential to maximizing the miles out of tires and the number of retreads on each casing, and to reducing road calls and downtime due to tire-related problems.

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