Don't Call Them "Mom & Pop"

Dale and Hermi Krueger are serious about competing for fleet maintenance business


"I do all their overflow work," Dale says of the upstart company. "They have their own shop and fleet manager, but they can't keep up. They like my preventive maintenance program, and they've incorporated some of my practices into their program, but I don't care because they still can't keep up. They still send me work. If I can help the company operate its own fleet in some way, I will."

FMPC's biggest customer, Canadian National Railroad, also dates back to the founding of the company ten years ago. Because Canadian National's trucks often come equipped with "high-rail" gear so they can ride the rails, they can't be maintained at any old shop.

"I had to send somebody to their school to get certified on their high-rail equipment," Dale says. "Every year they get their wheel bearings packed on their high-rail wheels, and we do an alignment check to make sure they're running down the rails straight, that there aren't any safety issues, that those brakes are working. It's quite a detailed inspection."

Balancing such specialized technical work with more run-of-the-mill maintenance tasks calls for some complicated planning. Finding technicians who can handle the challenges is difficult, as is training the right technician on the right procedures.

"I have to have a technician who can deal with the more specialized pieces of equipment," Dale says. "We do light duty, too--I have a dry-cleaning and laundry customer who has 15 little vans that they deliver laundry in. They come here and I have a lift in for them, so I have to have technicians who can do that.

"That does make it more difficult," he admits. "I have to take the time to train them; it costs me some money, but once I train a technician I know that customer is going to stay with me, like the railroad's been with me for ten years now, and MaxAir's been with me for ten years."

BIGGEST ENEMY

The Kruegers' penchant for thorough, painstaking work has its detractors. According to Dale, his biggest enemy is the client's "bean counter."

"He's looking for low price," Dale says, "and he doesn't understand value."

But value is the cornerstone of FMPC, and the Kruegers make no apologies for their high standards. Those standards may cost them some business, and some technicians, but they have stood the test of time.

"Whatever we do here, we do thoroughly," Dale says. "It's a brake rebuild, not a brake patch, because I want my customers to get the most life they can get. Yeah, I might be more expensive, I might use a higher quality brake shoe, or better quality fan belts, or whatever, but I want them to get the most miles they can get out of their truck. I don't want them to look at invoice cost; I want them to look at cost-per-mile."

The fleets that get it really get it. Many customers trust Dale's judgement to the point that they authorize FMPC to do whatever work they deem necessary, without calling in to get an okay. The railroad company does request quotes, but according to the Kruegers thay have never said no to any work FMPC has recommended.

"Dale is of the same age as a lot of other professionals in the business, but he's not sitting back doing it the same way he did it 30 years ago," Hermi says. "He is right on top of things, and he knows the way things should be done now."

"I'm 67 and I'm still looking for new things," says Dale. "I'm not the normal guy who says, 'We've always done it this way, and we're going to keep on doing it.' I look for ways to do it better and work more efficiently and save the customer money."

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