A Brutal Life

Keeping a delivery fleet clean and on time.


When the company's public image is reflected in the appearance of its trucks, that's a bad thing. But cosmetic damage is not easily controlled if the drivers don't speak up, or don't even notice, as DuPriest can attest.

"We also go through a lot of windshields," he says. "A chip here, a chip there, then the weather changes and it'll send a crack out. I try to get those fixed when I know about it, but the drivers don't always tell me they've got a chip."

WEAR AND TEAR

Soch's fleet operates largely at night, starting out at three in the morning to deliver snacks to dark loading docks. Because of this, Soch devotes a lot of attention to the trucks' electrical systems, making sure that the batteries are cleaned and charging properly.

"Because of the way the vehicles are built today, there's a lot of multiplexing," Soch says. "There are a lot of problems with grounds. There are so many ground connections everywhere, and if they lose connections, it's nothing but a can of worms. It's brutal. So, we end up refocusing on a lot of the connections on the PMs, and if we see there are problems we're taking them apart and cleaning them, and putting the sealing over them, and using dielectric grease."

DuPriest's fleet delivers office furniture, copiers and office supplies in the daylight, but the work is no less brutal.

"We deliver a lot of skids of paper, and sometimes there are no bumper guards around things, and if you back into a loading dock you can tear lights out pretty easily," he says. "Liftgates and overhead doors probably get abused as much as anything else. The drivers don't necessarily do things carefully at times.

"But the maintenance on that is not nearly as high as an engine running hot—they notice the temperature needle is high so they stop, but how long did it take before they noticed that the needle was up in the Twilight Zone?" DuPriest asks. "You work on a few box trucks, and that gets a little expensive."

GOOD ADVICE

Clearly, this work is hard on a truck. And since these maintenance managers don't see their trucks very often, their work is cut out for them.

DuPriest sums it up: "Here at the home office I can keep as good a maintenance check on them as I can, and the outside locations is where sometimes, something could have been prevented if we'd caught it earlier."

But the maintenance story is not hopeless, according to Soch. His advice? "Make sure the PMs cover all areas. If the trucks are operating at night, make sure the electrical system is adequate. Make sure the drivers are familiar with all the equipment on the vehicles, so that they don't neglect the equipment."

In this business, it boils down to one thing: delivering the goods. And that, in the end, keeps the maintenance equation pretty simple, according to DuPriest:

"Anything that needs immediate attention, we take care of right away. We're not going to put anybody in an unsafe vehicle."

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