What fleet doesn’t want to maximize uptime? But a host of factors need to come together to ensure that trucks are kept on the road as much as possible and that repairs are completed in a timely manner.
During last fall’s meeting of the American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council, the Service Provider Study Group led a session focused on maximizing uptime.
Panelists talked about what causes delays in getting a repair completed. Communication, or lack of it, was cited as one of the biggest causes. This could be unclear communication from the driver to the point of contact at the service provider, or between dispatch, the service advisor, and the driver. Everyone involved in the repair process must have accurate and complete information if a problem is to be resolved quickly.
Improper diagnosis and parts availability were two other common causes of delays in the repair process cited in the session.
One way to improve the repair process is to give service providers — even those outside a fleet’s normal service network — access to a vehicle’s service history so they can see what work has been done on the vehicle in the past. Past history often provides insight into current problems.
Also discussed were areas where technician skills need improvement. Number one on the list was electrical diagnostics, along with being able to understand and interpret data — knowing what a code means and what causes a code to appear.
Training in these areas, however, seems to be a moving target, as technology is changing so rapidly it can be difficult to keep technicians properly trained. There is more technology and complexity on today’s trucks, and diagnostic methods have not kept up with all the changes.
While hands-on, in-classroom training may be the most effective, it is also the most time-consuming, and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused much in-person training to be canceled. Online training and training videos are valuable alternatives to help keep technician skills sharp.
Arming everyone involved in a repair with accurate information is essential. Make sure that the terminology being used is understood by all parties. For example, technicians are taught very specific verbiage to use when turning in a parts request – but that language is not necessarily the way the part is listed in the parts catalog. That disconnect can lead to the wrong part being ordered, which of course slows a repair down. The recently developed heavy-duty Product Information Exchange Standard lays out product information in a standardized format that takes the guesswork out of product selection.
Service bays need to be equipped with computers, and those computers need to have the most current version of diagnostic software. Technicians also should be able to access the internet from the bay so they can view installation videos or find information when needed on how to properly complete a repair.
When it comes to vehicle repair, a variety of factors must come together to ensure the repair is completed properly and in a timely manner. Clear communication, access to data, and properly trained technicians are three key factors to focus on in order to improve the repair process for all parties and meet uptime goals.