What To Do About Tomorrow’s Maintenance Challenges?

Planning for the future is no easy task. For one thing, there are a great number of variables to consider, and often, these variables are very complex. For another, it is impossible to imagine every aspect of the future.

On top of this, there is the anxiety and fear that typically comes with branching out in new and unexpected directions.

English industrialist Sir John Harvey-Jones observed: “Planning is an unnatural process; it is much more fun to do something. The nicest thing about not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise, rather than being preceded by a period of worry and depression.

My beloved father used to say: “Thinking well is wise. Planning well is wiser.”

To help vehicle maintenance managers plan wisely for the future, TMC – North America’s premier technical society for truck equipment technology and maintenance professionals – has created this year’s annual fall meeting around the theme: Forging Solutions for Tomorrow’s Maintenance Challenges. That meeting is set for this September 10 to 13 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

With its diverse membership of equipment managers, service dealers, owner operators, industry suppliers and manufacturers, educators, academia and others that support the trucking industry, TMC works together to improve transport equipment, its maintenance and maintenance management.

TMC is a technical council of American Trucking Associations (ATA) – the national trade association for the trucking industry. It is a federation of affiliated state trucking associations, conferences and organizations that includes more than 37,000 motor carrier members representing every type and class of motor carrier in the country.


An integral element of the annual TMC Fall Meeting is a comprehensive collection of equipment related educational sessions. Among the sessions on the schedule for this year are:

Integrating Hybrid Powertrain Technologies for Commercial Vehicle Applications

One of the leading fleets in North America investigating hybrid technology is the United States Army, through its U.S. Army Tank-Automotive Research, Development & Engineering Center’s National Automotive Center (TARDEC/NAC). It has a cooperative affiliation with TMC.

During this session, representatives from TARDEC/NAC will share the results of recently completed projects and ongoing activities, including:

Duty cycle data acquired at Ft. Carson, CO, that is being evaluated to identify best fit alternate propulsion system vehicles to reduce operational energy costs and consumption.

A study on heavy duty diesel truck hybrid powertrains conducted to assess the performance of hybrids in use within commercial and vocational applications as a benchmark reference for the introduction of hybrids and electric vehicles to the U.S. Military ground vehicle fleet.

Joint activities with the Hybrid Truck Users Forum (HTUF), including initiatives to expand and increase focus on electric and Class 8 hybrid propulsion system vehicles.

HTUF is a national, multi-year, user-driven program to speed the commercialization of hybrid, electric and advanced technologies for the medium and heavy duty industries. It is operated by CALSTART – North America’s leading clean transportation technologies and solutions consortium – in partnership with, and under contract to, TARDEC/NAC.

U.S. Army technology development collaboration initiatives with the Department of Energy, original equipment manufacturers and their suppliers and industry associations such as TMC.

Technician Recruitment and Development Strategies: Dealing with the Technician Shortage

During this session, panelists will address how their operations are preparing now to deal with technician recruitment and retention issues. Topics to be covered will include outreach strategies to middle and secondary schools; community-based education availability; trainee sponsorships and on-the-job training; changing expectations for new hires; retention strategies for keeping good technicians; and methods for attracting highly trained military veterans.

Spec’ing and Management Strategies for Maximum Fuel Efficiency

This session will look at the changing ways fleets are spec’ing for fuel economy and discuss how some fleets will be taking a comprehensive approach to vehicle designs and perhaps even forgo traditional powertrains for alternative fuel offerings, such as hybrids or natural gas.

In addition, trucking’s top fleet maintenance executives will share how they are adapting their spec’ing and management strategies to deal with the new federal fuel efficiency standards in the coming years.


Among the other sessions and TMC study group meetings on the program for the TMC Fall Meeting are:

Is Corrosion Eating Away at Your Bottom Line? During this session, panelists will point out the less-than-obvious corrosion-related items a fleet might be experiencing and what can be done about them.

Spec’ing the “Green Reefer:” Innovations in Refrigeration Unit Design, Maintenance and Operations: This session will discuss what new technologies are available to “green” refrigerated trailer fleets. Panelists will review the latest specs, as well as best practices for transport refrigeration unit maintenance and operation.

Braking Up Is Not Hard to Do: Answers to Common Brake Drum Installation Issues: The focus of this session will be the concerns technicians face when servicing drum brakes. Common brake drum installation issues will be discussed as well.

Cab Air Quality Maintenance: What maintenance operations can do to maintain good cab air quality is what this session is all about. Panelists will examine cab air filtration and temperature control standards; what role air quality devices play; how cab insulation effects cab air temperature quality; and why proper component maintenance is critical for effective particulate removal, especially for HVAC recirculation systems, cooling coils, HEPA filters and ductwork.

Bulk Storage/Dispensing Options at the Terminal Level: Municipal, State and Federal Regulatory Requirements: Because fuel station planning is becoming more complex, this session has been designed to help attendees understand the myriad of federal, state and local regulations that impact fuel and fluid storage/dispensing at the terminal level.

Coolant Management Strategies: Identification, Tooling and Maintenance: This session will demonstrate how the best way of ensuring cooling system performance is by following industry best practices for coolant identification, tooling and maintenance. Among the topics to be addressed by panelists: how to distinguish among various conventional and extended life coolant technologies; what tools should be used with specific coolants/systems; what practices are essential for proper coolant maintenance; and user perspectives of fleets using multiple coolant technologies.

Best Practices for Tire Shops and Service Trucks: During this session, panelists will present best practices for both scheduled and unscheduled tire service. Presenters will cover situations in which the fleet comes to the service provider, and vice versa.

Today’s Emissions Aftertreatment and its Impact on Vocational Vehicle Maintenance and Total Vehicle Operating Cost: The purpose of this session is to address the unique aftertreatment failure conditions associated with vocational trucks and what can be done to avoid downtime and increased cost. Panelists will cover diesel particulate filter service intervals, regeneration cycle, and other steps vocational fleets should consider taking to improve the durability and performance of their aftertreatment systems.

Light and Medium Truck Tire Failure Analysis: Panelists at this session will address several important issues regarding light/medium tire failure analysis, including: correct tire application; different tires for city versus highway use; retreads; structured tire pressure maintenance programs; vehicle alignment intervals; and tire replacement practices.

Diagnostics: What Your Fleet Needs to Get the Job Done: This session will address what a shop needs to get the job done for fast and efficient troubleshooting of today’s heavy duty trucks. Subjects covered will be correct computer hardware, software, adapters and tooling.

MPG: Lost in the Details: This session will talk about how small things can affect fleet fuel economy. The panel will consist of fleets and manufacturers who will share information and data associated with how modest maintenance practices and spec’ing options can significantly improve mile per gallon performance.

Twenty-first Century Tools for the 21st Century Shop: During this session, panelists will present what they believe fleets and service providers must do to bring their maintenance operations up to speed when it comes to current technician tooling needs. They will cover hand-held tools and diagnostic adapters, starting and charging system analyzers, PC-service tools and other tools needed to properly service today’s equipment.

Complete details on the TMC 2012 Fall Meeting, plus registration information, can be found at: http://www.trucking.org/Federation/Councils/TMC/Pages/default.aspx.