Minimizing Operating Downtime

Melton Truck Lines keeps its rigs rolling through a combination of technologies, techniques and scrutiny.

About 60 percent of Melton Truck Lines tractors are outfitted with a Carrier Transicold APU (auxiliary power unit) to allow heating and cooling of the cab without the need to run the engine. This reduces fuel use, wear on the engine and other related mechanical components and diesel emissions, says Robinson. The top considerations in the choice of APU "were the service network, because we run all over North America, and reliability."

Among the technologies being used to increase fleet efficiency and uptime are systems from Qualcomm, a next generation mobile technologies company. In addition to streamlining communications, tracking and dispatch, Qualcomm systems are being used to monitor, in real time, vehicle and driver performance to more effectively manage fuel consumption, safety and productivity, says Robinson. "By identifying critical performance issues that impact these areas, we can be more proactive and efficient in getting faster results."

The fleet also pays bonuses to drivers who meet certain fuel consumption targets.

Melton Truck Lines' Qualcomm systems can send e-mail alerts for certain vehicle conditions, says Robinson. For example, if there is a hard braking incident, an e-mail alert is automatically sent in real time to the safety department which will look into the matter.

Technology is also helping further the fleet's commitment to safety, Robinson notes. All new tractors are being equipped with the Iteris lane departure warning system. It is a small, integrated unit consisting of a camera, onboard computer, image recognition software and proprietary algorithms that detects when a vehicle begins to drift from its lane. When this occurs, the unit automatically emits a distinctive "rumble strip" sound - alerting the driver to make a correction.

Melton Truck Lines PMs its trucks every 35,000 miles. Only the Laredo and Tulsa terminals are equipped to do this work. But because the fleet runs very few regular routes, trying to get its rigs into either one of those locations results in too many out-of-route miles, making it costly and time consuming.

Consequently, it has PM packages set up with Petro, Speedco and TravelCenters of America. About 60 percent of all PMs are done at these facilities, says Robinson. Drivers are alerted to the need for a PM via a message over the Qualcomm at about 32,000 miles.

Melton Truck Lines' operation is also benefitting from a stable technician workforce. "We have very low turnover," says Robinson. There is an effective hiring process that screens candidates for a broad background in vehicle repair and maintenance, good work history, ASE certifications and other training, among other things.

It recruits from area voctech schools and has a shadowing program wherein new technicians work with veteran technicians. Once onboard, technicians receive continuous training. "That's really important," he points out, "because things are changing so rapidly." Plus, it helps create loyalty.

"Maintenance truly is one of the critical elements to the success of Melton Truck Lines," concludes Robinson. "We devote a lot of time and resources to maintaining a sharp-looking, quality fleet.

"We want to present a good image and provide excellent performance. You can't do that with trucks that are constantly breaking down or are always in the shop. That causes frustrated drivers and mechanics, hurts productivity and loses customers."

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