Often the first and last people to touch a truck, the driver’s role in maintenance isn’t always clear.
Aaron Thompson, vice president of maintenance and purchasing for Birmingham, Ala.-based Action Resources, says the driver must fully understand what is at stake if he doesn’t help keep his truck rolling.
“On-time service is all we have to sell in this business and they can’t be on-time if they’re broken down on the road,” Thompson said during a breakout session on the driver’s role in maintenance at CCJ’s Solutions Summit in Palm Springs Wednesday. “There’s too much at stake for drivers not to participate [in truck maintenance].”
Thompson requires all his drivers to carry basic tools like a hammer, screwdriver, pliers, cutters, flashlight, a pry bar and zip ties for simple repairs.
“There’s not a lot on a Class 8 truck you can fix with these tools,” he says, “but if road service can quickly diagnose what their issue may be, they can do a quick temporary fix to avoid a road call.”
Quality pre- and post-trips are critical, as is checking all truck tire pressures with an air gauge and not a “thumper” along with opening the hood to check fluids, belts and hoses. Thompson also requires drivers to carry basic parts like bulbs, seals and hoses.
Still, it’s up to the driver to use the tools and replacement parts, which requires accountability and often incentives.
“When the drivers understand that you care and there’s actual consequences,” he says, “that is the best way of getting them to get out there and do that pre-trip. It can’t just be the maintenance team driving it home. It takes everybody.”
Action Resources also offers financial incentives for clean scale-house inspections as a reward for keeping the truck maintained.
“It’s a great way to recognize the driver,” he says.
Steve Rush, president of Wharton, N.J.-based Carbon Express, says his company trains new drivers on pre- and post-trips for three days in the shop – a change from letting drivers train other drivers.
“That’s a mistake,” he says. “Unless you’ve got an ace [driver], it’s a mistake.”
Drivers get $100 bonus for the first clean inspection, $50 for a second and $25 for others.
“If they fail, we bring them back in and they have to do another day of training,” Rush says.
Communication between the driver and the maintenance department must be more fluid than just exchanging paperwork, and Thompson says that starts with Driver-Vehicle Inspection Reports.
“Somebody has to be responding to the driver in a timely fashion,” he says. “If they’re not responding, [drivers] can pencil whip an E-DVIR just like a paper one.”
“When the driver writes something up, that maintenance department has got to get on it,” Rush adds, “and they’ve got to let that driver know they’re on it.”
Onboard diagnostics are another set of eyes and ears and Thompson says the driver’s role in that chain is simply cooperating with the process.
The service team is the first line of defense and need to fully understand what is happening in the cab with every system on the truck.
“Give them the tools and resources to quickly find an answer for the driver,” Thompson says. “And send road service guys out to key vendors to build relationships with service writers and managers.”
Carbon Express pays drivers for breakdown time.
“There’s nobody else at our company that can produce revenue except our drivers,” Rush says. “If they breakdown, were paying them. So now it’s on us. We’ve got to keep that truck moving.”
Management’s role in the process is to spot check inspections and to coordinate maintenance and operation departments.
“We’ve got to plan our maintenance,” Rush says. “With electronic logs, every second of every hour is absolutely critical to that driver’s success.”