Meet fleet service expectations the right way

Back in September 2009, the Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) established the Service Provider Committee to help improve the efficiency and professionalism of the working relationship between repair work service providers and fleets. In 2011, the committee was elevated to full Study Group status.

The Service Provider Study Group, like all of TMC’s Study Groups, works to create voluntary guidelines known as Recommend Practices (RPs). These are voluntary practices that assist equipment users, vehicle/component manufacturers and other industry suppliers in the maintenance of commercial vehicle equipment.

TMC ( is North America’s premier technical society for truck equipment technology and maintenance professionals. A technical council of American Trucking Associations (, the largest national trade association for the trucking industry, TMC’s mission is to improve transport equipment, its maintenance and maintenance management.

The Service Provider Study Group was originally born from work done in the S.5 Fleet Maintenance Management Study Group’s Task Force that developed RP 535, Template for Establishing Fleet/Service Provider Relationships. This RP helps foster the relationship between service providers and fleets that have never done business together before by removing the opportunity for surprises during the repair process.

The purpose of the Service Provider Study Group is to continually improve these relationships and make them increasingly beneficial between both parties by decreasing repair bottlenecks and improving speed of repair, says Kenneth Calhoun, chairman of the TMC Service Provider Study Group. RP 1602, Repair Order Authorization and Approval, provides guidelines for streamlining repair authorization and approval.

“That RP was designed to be a guide so both parties have the information they need to start the repair as quickly as possible,” he says.

All the recommended practices are made to improve efficiencies in order to improve turn-around time, he continues. The intent is help make communications more concise and accurate so that quicker authorization for repairs can be achieved, repairs can begin sooner and service provider internal efficiency can be improved.


In order to have a recommended practice adopted as a TMC Recommended Maintenance Practice, it has to go through a balloting process. Simply put, TMC’s Full Fleet Member companies, as well as Service Provider companies, vote on the RPs that are vying to get into the TMC Recommended Practices Manual.

Associate Member companies have the same privileges with TMC Recommended Engineering Practices. These assist equipment users, vehicle/component manufacturers and other industry suppliers in the design, specification, construction and performance of commercial vehicle equipment.

Any TMC member may comment on either type of RP. Ballot comments provided by the members are then reviewed during Task Force sessions of the TMC’s scheduled meetings. During this process, RPs can then be adjusted and amended based on the comments received.

After this, the appeals process begins. The RP is printed in a trade magazine. Then, after 90 days of it being printed, if no one contacts the TMC indicating that there is a problem with the RP, it then becomes an official part of the TMC Recommended Practices Manual and is enshrined officially as a TMC Recommended Practice.


The creation and acceptance of an RP is an involved process. Since its creation, the Service Provider organization has produced five RPs that are now included in the TMC Recommended Practices Manual. The three most recent are: RP 1603, RP 1604 and RP 1605.

  • RP 1603, Warranty Workflow Procedures. This deals with repair completion delays when dealing with OEM service facility, Calhoun explains. It standardizes warranty workflow procedures into a reasonable process in order to expedite a warranty repair and communicate the results of that repair back to the equipment owner.

There are three basic steps to this RP, according to Calhoun. First, the details necessary to start a warranty repair have to be gathered. These include documenting the complaint, having the fleet provide any additional warranty coverage information, determining whether there are any recalls and gathering other necessary data.

Next, once the vehicle problem has been diagnosed by the service provider, and before starting repairs, there ought to be verification that payment for the work would be covered by an applicable warranty. During this process, it is the service provider’s job to obtain and document OEM pre-authorization information and to inform the fleet as to the status of the warranty and the estimated repair time.

After this, the repair may be completed and proper documentation made for the customer invoice. When invoicing a customer for a warranty repair, it is important that the applicable warranty repairs have notations indicating that there was no charge and that the proper VMRS coding on the repair operations was used, says Calhoun.

VMRS (Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards) is the standard coding convention for communicating maintenance information. Considered the “shorthand” of maintenance reporting, VMRS is managed by TMC.

  • RP 1604, Rapid Repair Assessment. This was developed to establish a rapid vehicle repair assessment. It says that the first order of business when a vehicle arrives at a shop is to determine the customer’s preferred method of communication for business dealings.

The next recommended best practice with RP 1604 is to allow the service provider up to two hours of diagnostic time to assess the problems with the vehicle.

The process continues with the service provider doing a diagnosis, formulating a repair estimate, determining parts availability and, if necessary, getting prior authorization for the repair.

  • RP 1605, Justification For A Parts & Service Assistant. Unlike the previous two RPs that deal with relations between fleets and service providers when it comes to completing repair work, this RP deals with the process of justifying and implementing the hiring of a parts and service assistant. The reasoning behind this RP, observes Calhoun, is that such an assistant can help fleet and/or service provider efficiency by lessening the workload on technicians and keeping them where they are most needed - in the work bay.

Among the topics addressed by RP 1605:

  • How to figure out the necessary experience a person should have to successfully fill the position.
  • Depending upon the size of the service provider/fleet, how many parts and service assistants may be needed.
  • How technicians and the assistant can most effectively communicate with one another.
  • Tools the assistant may need to perform his duties.
  • Benchmarking of target areas of parts and service improvement expected from the hiring of an assistant.

For more details on these and other RPs, consult the TMC Recommended Practices Manual.