Even with the best maintained equipment, breakdowns and the need for roadside assistance will inevitably occur. Because driver and vehicle downtime is expensive, drivers and vehicles need to get back on the road quickly and cost effectively, with minimal disruption to fleet operations.
Some fleets handle emergency roadside assistance in-house. Others outsource this function to third parties that specialize in one-stop solutions for breakdown and emergency roadside assistance.
Third-party services tend to offer 24/7 support every day of the year through a toll-free telephone number or Internet access. They handle everything through integrated services that address the entire vehicle breakdown process - from diagnosis to vendor management and billing. They also monitor the progress of every event by following up with the driver/dispatch/maintenance function and service provider until the repair or service is completed.
“The goal of getting trucks back on the road as quickly and safely as possible hasn’t changed, but the process of managing breakdowns today is much different than it was just 10 years ago,” observes Jason Manuel, national sales manager for InterStar North America, a provider of maintenance and repair solutions for the commercial trucking industry.
“When a driver needs to get off the highway because of a vehicle problem, the first priority is to find out exactly where he or she is,” he says. “Determining a precise location 10 years ago meant the driver had to pull out a paper map, get on the CB to get help from other drivers or walk up and down the highway to find a mile marker post.”
“The road atlases and simple mapping software of the not-too-distant past has quickly given way to more accurate GPS, online locator software and real-time tracking of fleet assets,” adds Don Darden, executive director, communications, for Bridgestone Americas, which operates the Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions Emergency Road Service program. “Technology has also allowed us to monitor calls more efficiently and shorten the downtime associated with breakdowns. It has enabled the tracking and reporting of breakdown information to become actionable and allow fleets to make more data driven decisions.”
Nowadays, drivers can instantly determine their location with assistance from satellite platforms and GPS-enabled devices, Manuel says. Modern breakdown call centers often utilize advanced mapping solutions to help locate the driver and the closest mobile or drive-in repair facility.
“Taking less time to determine the breakdown location and problem reduces the amount of time the vehicle sits on the side of the road,” he says.
The expanding use of the latest in communication and computer technology enables a smooth, seamless flow of information between fleet and maintenance systems to enable breakdown services to become true partners with their customers, says Heather Holt, director of marketing for FleetNet America, a third-party vendor management company that coordinates emergency roadside service and maintenance management service for commercial equipment.
“The integration with the satellite communications providers allow drivers to communicate breakdown needs in the same manner they use to communicate with dispatch, eliminating the need for traditional phone calls,” she says.
Some new in-cab offerings actually monitor engine fault codes and transmit them to fleet managers and breakdown companies, notes Manuel of InterStar North America.
By way of example, national less-than-truckload motor carrier Old Dominion Freight uses PeopleNet’s real-time engine monitoring to enable FleetNet America to proactively manage its fleet maintenance and reduce maintenance costs.
PeopleNet is the leading provider of innovative and integrated onboard computing and mobile communications systems for fleet management.
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Carroll passed all eight exams in the Medium and Heavy Duty Truck Test Series.