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Market factors make it the right time to switch to contract maintenance

By: Gia March 4, 2024

As featured in FleetOwner -Perspectives – Gino Fontana

The trucking industry is in a time of increased vehicle complexity, major technology shifts, and a shortage of qualified technicians. That’s not a great combination for fleets doing their own maintenance and repair.

Taken together, these three factors seem to present a good case for fleets getting out of the maintenance and repair business and partnering with an outside maintenance provider. However, not all firms that provide contract maintenance are created equal, and outsourcing your maintenance and repair to the wrong company can have disastrous consequences.

Here are some key areas to look at when evaluating maintenance providers.

  • Ability to service your locations: If you are performing in-house maintenance now, chances are you are doing so in your shops. Does the potential provider have the ability to staff and run those shops? Do they have the infrastructure to support your locations?
  • Technician skills and training: Do their technicians have the skills necessary to work on your vehicles? Are they properly trained and qualified to work on the manufacturers and type of equipment you have? What percent of the technicians are ASE certified? What is their budget for technician training, and what efforts are they making to ensure their technicians are up-to-date on maintaining and repairing new technologies?
  • Parts procurement: We are just now seeing some easing in supply chain issues that resulted in a shortage of parts needed for maintenance and repair. Ask the provider to demonstrate their parts’ buying power. Ask the provider if they are part of a buying group or consortium. Do they have lean inventory practices in place? Ask them to explain any national account programs they have, such as a mounted tire program.
  • Tools and equipment: Ask to tour the shop(s) where your vehicles will be serviced. What types of tools and equipment has the shop invested in? What are the conditions of those tools and equipment? Do they have the specialty equipment that your vehicles require?
  • Electronic service event management system: Is the service provider using a digital/electronic method to record service events? Do you have real-time access to maintenance and repair events? Can approvals for purchase orders and additional work needed be completed electronically? Will you have access to complete service histories for each vehicle?
  • Flexible options: Each fleet has its own unique maintenance and repair needs. Ensure the outside maintenance provider can provide a customized solution to meet your needs rather than shoehorning you into some existing program it uses for other fleets.

A bonus area to discuss is whether the service provider can come into your existing shop and take it over. If you have an existing shop, whether or not it is currently in use, there are several advantages to seeing if a service provider can come into that shop and take it over. This may be the best solution for many fleets. This way, your existing shop is used for only your trucks, but the service provider takes over managing your entire maintenance and repair process, often employing your existing technicians.

See also: Fontana: Systematic maintenance leads to safer trucks

Allowing someone else to work on your trucks requires a degree of trust that they will follow the same quality standards you have used to keep your trucks on the road. Make sure you ask the right questions to find the right fit and know that your trucks are in good hands.

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