More Eyes and Ears Can Help

In the maintenance manger's world, the "big things" virtually demand attention, and in most cases, they receive it. These are the OEM prescribed PMs requiring attention on regular intervals of time or mileage. Hours and miles are tracked and the PMs are performed.

However, computers tracking the intervals do not have eyes and ears, and most maintenance mangers have only two of each. Unfortunately, your eyes and ears cannot be where your head does not go.

But a set of eyes and ears travel with each vehicle leaving your facility and they can become of assistance in your "troubleshooting." Drivers' eyes and ears can, and should, become a part of your team. Pre-trip inspections are simply not enough. Ongoing driver awareness of truck and trailer systems is essential and can save significant dollars.

During three recent trips on Interstates 10 and 95, I could hardly believe the number of trailers not tracking true behind their trucks. On almost one out every of ten I followed, the trailer sides were in view when my steer tires were in line with the rig's tires. Axles this far out of alignment are scrubbing away tire tread and dollars.

Drivers are checking their mirrors constantly. Surely they could see the problem.

Improper air pressure is the number one cause of tire failure. The "alligators" along the roadside are evidence many tires were not properly inflated as recommended. Maintenance managers are painfully aware of the cost of premature tire replacement. Without a tire monitoring system, the driver is absolutely a key person in tire management.

A pre-trip inspection will discover any DOT-required lights not illuminated. However, an additional walk around a vehicle during a rest stop can pay big dividends for safe driving at night.

LED lights have gone a long way to eliminate bulb replacement, but not all equipment is LED equipped.

Remind drivers that during any walkaround, a check of the undercarriage of the truck and trailer may well find the first indication of an engine, transmission or radiator leak, loose wiring or damage from road debris.

The use of drivers' eyes and ears can be a tremendous safety practice and may well save dollars in repairs, service delays and even fines.

So how do the ears work into this, you may ask? I would propose they work wonderfully.

Every driver knows the sound of his truck. Many drivers will say it is a simple pleasure listening to the diesel hum. A trained ear will notice an unusual sound, but just like the unusual things the eyes spot, these problems must be communicated to the service department.

Here's a thought. Set up a reward for "turning in" a report that saves dollars. You don't need to print "wanted posters," but you could. As a driver "turns in" a report that saves money, the reward could be as simple as an insulated travel coffee mug. Use your imagination as to what drivers would appreciate and would keep reminding them to stay on the alert.

All of this can be accomplished for a small investment. Notice I did not say cost. It will be an investment that will likely preclude tire wear or even replacement, or could prevent a costly repair due to early detection of a leak. Plus, there is no way of placing a value on safety from a properly lighted combination vehicle on the interstate after dark.

You may say this sounds cheesy or gimmicky. But if it keeps your fleet even one notch tighter because other eyes and ears go where yours don't, it may well be worth the effort.

You may even be surprised at how your drivers respond to the request for use of their eyes and ears. After all, you cannot go everywhere to keep an "eye" on every unit.

Make it a fun campaign. Step outside the box and see how it works.

Charles Henry retired as vice president of advertising and industry relations with Great Dane Trailers. Based out of Jacksonville, FL, he has been consulting within the trucking industry to numerous major OEM's, as well as industry suppliers, for ten years now.