Participating in the panel discussion session were Adam Kobeloch of Daimler Trucks North America, Jason Graham of Dallas Freightliner, Kevin Bowers of TransSource and David Foster of Southeastern Freight Lines.
The top concerns for fleets, says Kobeloch is promptness of the service write-up, the ability to correctly diagnosis the problem and the accuracy of the estimated time and cost for the repair. These worries have lead to the rapid assessment concept, a kind of triage for truck repair.
KEY COMPONENTS, BENEFITS
Some of the key elements for creating a successful rapid assessment program, concur the session's panelists, are:
• Appointing dedicated diagnostic technicians, preferably those who are best at troubleshooting problems. Dallas Freightliner's Graham says with his dealership's rapid assessment program, the technicians decided among themselves who would be the diagnostics technicians. This helped provide a better a higher level of trust among the technicians, he notes.
• Having a dedicated parts person and foreman.
• Continuously measuring how the program is doing and constantly making changes to improve.
The typical processes suggested for a rapid assessment program:
• The service adviser gets with the customer to find out the issues with the vehicle.
• The truck then moves to the dedicated triage bay where the dedicated diagnostic technicians identify the problems, check for parts availability and then get back to the service adviser to make him aware of the situation.
• The service adviser determines whether it is a quick lane repair of something that needs to be scheduled into the shop for further diagnosis or repair.
Graham and TransSource's Bowers says there are a number of benefits service provider can reap from rapid assessment, including:
• Reduced time for initial diagnostics.
• Increased gross profit through better job assignment based on technical skill level.
• Fewer comebacks due to proper diagnostics and repair the first time.
• Greater volume as a result of a higher level customer satisfaction.
NECESSARY UP-FRONT INFORMATION
For service providers thinking of setting up a rapid assessment program, Southeastern Freight Lines' Foster suggests that they first establish good communication on the front end concerning problems with the vehicle and have a solid understanding of a fleet's requirements. This, he maintains, "will save considerable time and aggravation."
Information about vehicle issues ought to come directly from the driver if at all possible, stresses Foster, rather than from a dispatcher or fleet manager. This usually helps in diagnosing, troubleshooting or repairing the problem.
Service providers should have a technical contact at the customer company - such as a fleet or regional maintenance manager - so that technical issues may be discussed and agreed upon, he advises. It can be difficult to explain a technical problem to a location manager, dispatcher or other non-maintenance related company employee.
Additionally, Foster recommends that service providers have in place such things as:
• A road test agreement.
• Agreed upon labor rates, overtime rates, call in rates, road call rates and other charges.
• Agreed upon customer and vendor spending limits, beyond which requires additional approval.
Customer preferences should also be known and agreed upon before repairs, says Foster. This includes brand name or generic parts; types of fluids (synthetic or conventional); company supplied parts or tires; any specialized company practices, adjustments, procedures and standardizations; and driver request limitations for such things as radios, seats, power complaints, ride complaints, extra lights, extra brackets, etc.
"We need to get over the first come first served mentality," Graham says. Beyond that, applying rapid assessment is no easy undertaking, agree the panelists, because "it's tough to change culture in this industry," says Foster.
Lee Long of Southeastern Freight Lines was installed as 2012-13 general chairman and treasure for the Technology & Maintenance Council.