If there is one fact of like for any truck driver, it is that at some point you will likely find yourself in a situation where your vehicle has broken down or is otherwise disabled. But not every professional truck driver is an experienced truck driver. For someone unfamiliar with handling those situations, it can be a nerve-wracking experience.
Of course, motor carriers can do many things to try and prevent or mitigate unplanned roadside events, but even on the best of days, things can fail or go wrong in some way, shape, or form. Preventative maintenance programs are critical, but as comprehensive as your technicians are, as a wise man once said, “Life happens.”
Whether it is a tire blowout, nagging electrical issue, or an aftertreatment failure – at some point something is going to happen. Will you be prepared to deal with it? A vehicle breakdown is about a lot more than just how the situation is handled. When a vital piece of equipment is taken out of operation, it can impact everything from customer relations to the bottom line.
A loss in productivity, a potential impact to safety, and even a hit in your reputation: These result from an improperly handled or otherwise avoidable roadside incident or breakdown. If a fleet is proactive about their approach to everything from truck driver training to vehicle maintenance, keeping all their fleet’s wheels on the road – being as responsive as possible – shouldn’t be a problem.
Yet, not every fleet is fully equipped to quickly respond to and fix a breakdown. In fact, most fleets must rely on trusted relationships with breakdown service providers to get critical roadside issues addressed safely and expeditiously. Yet, before you even get there, there are steps you can take to minimalize the amount of times you must call on your provider for assistance.
The Importance of Maintenance
This isn’t the first time we have talked about commercial vehicle maintenance. Yes, breakdowns may be inevitable to a certain degree, but there are things you can do to decrease the frequency or severity of them. The first of these is proper preventative maintenance.
Are your pre-trip inspections properly outlined in company policy? Furthermore, are you ensuring your shop technicians are staying on top of the fleet’s preventative maintenance needs?
There are far too many instances where unexpected, and unsafe, roadside events could have been prevented if a proper pre-trip inspection or preventative maintenance routine had been acted on. Vehicles must be addressed before they are driven out of the yard.
Yet, beyond how you manage maintenance, there is another critical aspect of unwanted events that is too often overlooked – that of the breakdown itself. You could be completely on top of your pre-trip and preventative maintenance routine but, as we mentioned before, at some point a breakdown will happen despite your best efforts.
Addressing Breakdown Challenges Before the Breakdown
Another bind that a fleet that hasn’t paid proper care to their procedure overview is that of attempting to find the right provider when the breakdown has already happened. Responsible motor carriers know how important relationships are in business. Whether it be with the truck drivers, shippers, brokers, or vendors – you get a lot out of having a productive relationship with someone.
The same holds true for third-party breakdown service providers. To get the most out of the relationship, it is important that you do your due diligence in assessing the various capabilities of whatever breakdown service providers you are currently evaluating. Has your back office fully vetted their overall cost, response times, and other capabilities critical to ensuring when your vehicle breaks down, they can be counted on?
Information sharing should be another necessary evaluation point when assessing different breakdown service providers. If a motor carrier can share information with the provider, notifications, alerts, and response times are all dramatically improved. When working with your provider, it is important that they can clearly outline their process when addressing everything from a flat tire to an obscure fault code.
Are they using new systems with interoperability capabilities that won’t hamstring your ability to quickly get information and notifications from one place to another, no matter where in the country you are? Reliable partners will have a proven network already built out and ready to handle whatever you throw at them. Call center professionals also need to be adept at relaying complex repair information; at being an effective conduit between the truck driver and response unit.
In many cases, truck and hardware OEMs can even offer suggestions on reliable partners. In the end, the most important thing is that your truck drivers and dispatch professionals can quickly get an efficient, competent voice assisting them on the other side of the line. No matter the day of the week or time of day, a breakdown service provider worth what they want you to pay will have no problem addressing these matters.
What Makes Information Sharing So Critical
If there is one thing fleets operating in the “old way” of thinking misconceive, it is the necessity of information sharing; of providing a workable template that the breakdown service provider can use to have a complete and accurate picture of all the specs and details of the vehicles operating within your fleet.
When you are establishing a relationship built on trust, you must take the time to ensure intra- and inter-party communication protocols are established and known by all affected parties. Breakdown service providers aren’t in business to be nosy or change the way your fleet does business. On the contrary, they fill a necessary and vital role in being able to act on a breakdown – immediately.
A reliable breakdown service provider should be more focused on getting your vehicle back to working order quickly than they are on making sure you are billed first. Conversely, they should be able to count on you to provide them with the information they need to properly get the job done.
By having a template already drawn up, and information sharing protocols already in place, whether a belt breaks or a hose bursts, your service provider can respond nearly instantaneously, stay in constant contact, and get your disabled vehicle back on the road as quickly as possible. As they say, time is money, so the less time your money-making equipment is disabled on the side of the road, the more your bottom line will thank you.
Why Relationships Matter
It may seem like an obvious statement, but relationships matter. Not only does the motor carrier need to have a good working relationship established with the breakdown service provider, but their truck drivers need to have a good working relationship with their response units; their back office needs to have a good working relationship with their billing department, and on and on.
When a breakdown occurs, a properly maintained relationship provides both peace of mind and actionable results tied directly to profit and loss. When you have a deep relationship with a provider, they can rest assured that your business will be consistent. They won’t want to take that for granted. By showing commitment on your side, you establish your value as their client.
When making a careful decision on the beginning of a partnership, it is essential that you also weigh cost versus value. It is rarely advisable to focus entirely on price when choosing a breakdown service provider. Quality before quantity is more advisable in almost any situation, and critical vendor partnerships are no exception to the rule.
What you are getting for your money is more important than how much money you are spending. But are you building a breakdown service provider relationship with that in mind?
In the Age of Information
It is no secret that we live in the golden age of technology. Information comes lightning fast and is available at our fingertips any time of day, any day of the week. Yet you cannot remove the human element from any problem.
What if your truck driver fails to provide the proper information or exact location? Conversely, what if your breakdown service provider has a hard time discerning codes that should have been ironed out and explained before the first service call was ever required? Without proper informational due diligence, problems will arise before the first response has been put in the books.
Even something as seemingly simple as requiring a tow can be an issue if the truck driver is unable to provide information regarding what the reason for the breakdown is. Without the right vehicle information, the wrong tow truck might be dispatched. Or perhaps a tow truck isn’t needed a all.
The point is, when these policies, plans, and procedures are all outlined ahead of time, service calls go smooth and by-the-numbers. When your business’ bottom line is at stake – not to mention the health and safety of your truck drivers – establishing a provider relationship built on a solid foundation yields immediate dividends.