Uptime: Up to Your Eyeballs

LAST MONTH’S TECHNOLOGY & MAINTENANCE COUNCIL (TMC) Annual Meeting and Expo in Orlando was noteworthy for the amount of fear, doubt, misinformation and horror stories on everyone’s lips. I’ve been talking about this over the past few weeks on my blog (www.fleetmag.com/interactive/) and some of you have responded with your thoughts and reactions, but some of these stories bear repeating here.

Looking over my notes from the TMC meeting, a few choice items leap off of the page:

Did you know that anti-idling laws are being drafted and put into place by “vigilante groups?” Well, that opinion was voiced at a TMC session.

Speaking of anti-idling laws, did you know that some drivers have learned to override their automatic engine shut-off devices by setting their parking brakes on their trailers but not on their trucks? This fools the ECM into thinking that the truck is still moving, and disables the auto shut-off.

Did you know that fleets attempting to buy hybrids from their truck dealers are finding it next to impossible, because the dealers don’t know that their OEM offers them? In fact, one attendee reported that some dealers don’t even know what a hybrid is. And a rep from one of the truck OEMs advised that fleet guys should “go around” their dealers to order hybrids, because the dealers “can’t keep up.”

Did you know that the OBD systems that will be mandated on 2010 heavy-duty diesel engines will make it harder for your technicians to find the cause of a fault?

Did you know that 30 to 35 percent of the ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel (ULSD) pumps in the country are not labelled correctly?

Did you know that some fleets are not using CJ-4 oil in their 2007 engines, and that some of the engine manufacturers are okay with that? (You can read more about that on p. 30).

Now, the question is, how much of this is true, and how much is rumor?

Now, the folks who attend TMC shows are pretty sharp, and they know their businesses and the industry really well. But you get a few hundred people in a room together raising questions, making accusations and retelling stories they’ve heard from their brother-in-law’s uncle’s neighbor, and I don’t care how smart they are—there’s going to be some bad information coming out of that meeting.

To paraphrase a very confused character from “Lost,” we might all be getting “Scooby-Doo’d” here. The news can’t all be bad, and we can’t just go believing every story we hear without getting corroboration.

Here’s the sense I got from talking to TMC members all week:

A lot of them have been in this business for 20, 25, 30 years or more, and a lot of them can still remember when heavy trucking was pretty completely unregulated. But all that changed in the 1990s. For the past 15 to 20 years, they’ve been regulated to death, told what they can do and what they can’t do until there’s very little that they actually control. So, even the wildest rumor becomes a threat.

It’s no wonder the fleet maintenance managers at TMC saw bad news around every corner. They’ve had enough.

But there are good stories out there. We’re always looking for them. Keep reading: the news isn’t all bad, and the bad news isn’t all true.