Better Fleet/Service Provider Relations

Due to a plethora of factors, service providers and fleets, when dealing with one another, have to contend with a variety of challenges. This is especially the case in a vehicle-down situation.

There are three chief issues at the heart of the fleet/service provider relations. At the forefront is effective communications. Another matter is different expectations of the service experience. Then there is the disconnect because each fleet and each service provider because all have their own way of doing things and typically their processes and procedures do not mesh.

To help improve efficiencies and build better business relationships between service providers and fleets, the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC), at its Fall Meeting in September 2009, established the Service Provider Committee. Its purpose was to deal with the long-standing issues service providers and fleets frequently have in transacting business together, especially when set to work with one another for the first time.

TMC is North America’s premier technical society for truck equipment technology and maintenance professionals. A technical council of American Trucking Associations, the largest national trade association for the trucking industry, TMC’s mission is to improve transport equipment, its maintenance and maintenance management.


The Service Provider Committee grew out of a Task Force within TMC’s S.5 Fleet Maintenance Management Study Group, recalls Kenneth Calhoun, vice president of customer relations for Truck Centers of Arkansas, who chairs the committee. At the time, this task force was developing guidelines for establishing a business relationship between a fleet and a service provider.

“The aim was to help smooth the business dealing if a fleet and a service provider were doing business for the first time,” he explains. “The guidelines would define expectations on front end and thereby reduce the possibility for screws up, hurt feelings and getting off to a bad start.”

Good business relationships are based on communication, performance, trust and accountability, says Calhoun.

With a lot of good input from both fleet and service providers, the Fleet Maintenance Management task force produced TMC Recommended Practice (RP) 535, “Template for Establishing Fleet/Service Provider Relationships.”

TMC issues two types of RPs: Recommended Maintenance Practices and Recommended Engineering Practices. These are specifications or practices, the adoption of which is voluntary.


From the development work that lead to RP 535, along with discussions between fleets and service providers, then TMC general chairman Brent Hilton, director of maintenance for Maverick Transportation, decided the matter of service provider and fleet relationships warranted its own study group to address the many issues.

Consequently, the Service Provider Committee was formed and Charles Voyles, then service director for Truck Centers, Troy, IL, and now a fleet service manager with Navistar was appointed chairman. The committee was charged with gaining a better understanding of the challenges that both the fleets and service providers - both independent shops and OEM dealers - face, in order to create procedures and practices for efficiencies and cost savings for both parties.

There are eight ongoing task forces within the Service Provider Committee. They are:

  • Rapid Repair Assessment.
  • Repair Order Approval and Authorization.
  • Optimizing Technician Productivity.
  • Recommend Standard Repair Times.
  • Quality Control.
  • Warranty Handling.
  • Conflict Resolution.
  • Customer Satisfaction.


Two of the Service Provider Committee task forces have authored RPs that will be submitted for ballot and approval by TMC at its Fall Meeting, says Calhoun, who became chairman of the committee at TMC’s Summer Meeting this past February, after having served as first vice chairman.

The TMC Fall Meeting is set for September 19 to 22 in Raleigh, NC, at the Raleigh Convention Center. The theme is: Maintenance Solutions You Can Count On.

RP 1601T, Guidelines for Measuring Equipment User Customer Satisfaction, from the Customer Satisfaction Task Force, deals with how to develop and implement customer service index programs. The RP includes guidelines, pitfalls to avoid and implementation suggestions, along with some sample customer satisfaction surveys.

The Repair Order Approval and Authorization Task Force will be submitting RP 1602T, Repair Order Authorization and Approval. This RP seeks to streamline the lines of communication between a fleet and a service provider and help keep workflow organized and progressing in a sensible, efficient manner.


When it comes to business dealings between a fleet and a service provider, everything revolves around communications, notes Calhoun.

“It’s important for both sides to be cognizant that in the repair order approval and authorization process, there’s always a chain reaction,” he says. “If a fleet drags its feet, a service provider can’t progress on the work. This doesn’t just slow down the repair work, it puts a real bottleneck in the entire repair process, as well as slows throughput of vehicles in the shop.

“Service providers, on the other hand, must get fleets the information they need in a format that is concise and gives them the data they need to make informed decisions about any repairs.”

The Service Providers Committee will present the technical session on repair order approval and authorization at TMC’s upcoming Fall Meeting.


Participation in the Service Provider Committee “has been good and there has been a steady building process, with involvement from all parties – OEM dealers, independent shops and fleets,” Calhoun says.

“As with everything at TMC, the Service Provider Committee has been designed to get both fleet decision makers and service providers involved in all processes,” he points out. “Rather than dreaming up programs on our own and saying this is how business is going to be done, we bring both parties together in a very public forum intended from inception to work on issues.

“The idea is to look at any issue or concern from both sides and get both perspectives. That is critical to what the Service Provider Committee, and all of TMC, is doing.”

The overall goal of coming up with recommended practices for business dealings between fleets and service providers is to facilitate consistency and accuracy in repair process. This not only creates efficiencies and cost savings, it helps ensure mutual satisfaction with the service experience.