When searching for a third-party breakdown program, the first thing a fleet should do is document all of their current breakdown processes, advises InterStar’s Manuel. Gather and document national tire account numbers and contact lists of the personnel who are going to be able to approve repair services.
“The next step is to review the sales literature and websites of popular breakdown companies, narrow the list to the two or three most intriguing,” he says. “Schedule meetings or phone conferences to find out what the provider can do for you and what costs are involved.”
Some discerning questions to ask a potential breakdown provider, says Manual, are:
- Will you be able to use your national tire accounts to purchase tires in an emergency situation?
- Are there any monthly or annual fees to join as a fleet customer?
- What type of contract or service agreement is involved with becoming a fleet customer?
- How will warranty situations be handled?
- What methods of payment are accepted?
- What types of services are provided? (Tire, mechanical, towing, accident recovery, etc.)
- Does the provider offer service at your terminal or just roadside emergency service?
- Can the company provide you with fleet references to vouch for its service?
When considering a roadside service provider that best meets an organization’s needs, Karen Piccolomini, manager for RoadSquad, a comprehensive roadside service program, recommends developing a ratings system that reflects what you’re looking for in a provider. “It doesn’t have to be complex or in-depth. It can be as simple as 1, 2, 3. One, they’re a preferred supplier. Two, they’re a secondary choice. Three, they’re a provider that’s performed poorly in the past.”
A next step is to take a hard look at each service providers’ reputation, she says. “Do your research. Call around. Find out what their roadside capabilities are.”
It’s also important to learn about the quality of a provider’s technicians, points out Piccolomini. “Do they have the expertise to repair a blown tire or are they limited to fixing a flat? Do the technicians have the equipment and training needed to conduct remote diagnostic work? Do they have proper ASE certification? If they do, what is the average certification for that provider? Are their technicians trained in roadside safety?”
An additional consideration is the service provider’s service trucks, she adds. “Do they have the number of trucks and technicians needed to handle the inevitable uptick in business during extreme weather conditions – both hot and cold? Are they set up with safety in mind? Do they have quality equipment on board?
“How the service truck is equipped is a big part of an efficient and safe repair.”
FleetNet’s Holt says companies should consider the 10 Commandments of Outsourcing by Assistant Professor Robert J Eder III of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee when considering outsourcing transportation needs and “approach carefully.”
- Develop a strategy for outsourcing.
- Establish a rigorous provider selection process.
- Clearly define expectations.
- Develop a good contract.
- Establish sound policies and procedures.
- Identify and avoid potential points of friction.
- Communicate effectively with your partner.
- Measure performance and communicate results.
- Motivate and reward the provider.
- Be a good partner.
Naturally, rates are a big issue with breakdown services.
Many emergency breakdown programs have service providers in their network that have pre-determined, negotiated service rates, as well as consistent or guaranteed pricing throughout the country so fleets can avoid “surprises” on the road and know what to expect ahead of time. Some programs charge a dispatch, incident, enrollment or membership fee.
Payment options for actual repair services vary. Authorization protocols can be specifically defined to suit a fleet’s business needs.
“When you make that phone call for roadside assistance, before hanging up, make sure you understand what you’ll be charged,” advises RoadSquad’s Piccolomini. “Many providers charge more after 5 p.m. and on weekends and holidays. There might be a call-out fee.”
Find out if the service has a two-hour minimum, she says. “That two-hour minimum is going to hurt if you’re only 10 miles from the provider with a simple out-of-fuel situation.
How to make the wisest and safest purchasing decisions
Carroll passed all eight exams in the Medium and Heavy Duty Truck Test Series.