February 2013, TruckingInfo.com - WebXclusive
Prime's Higgins said although a lot of what they have is under warranty, problems with aftertreatment systems create a lot of downtime. In addition, because of the nature of the drop-and-hook business, there's a lot of trailer damage.
For Republic Services, as would be expected, it's brakes. "Some of our newest technology, the automated side loaders, they serve 1200 loads a day, each will do at least two brake jobs a year," Svehla explained. "In Michigan it's not uncommon for those front loaders that run heavy to do four brake jobs a year." However, he noted, "Next year, when our [DPF-equipped] trucks go out of warranty, I think when we all start paying for these aftertreatments, they will give brakes a run for the money."
At Ahern, Cain cited brakes, clutches and transmissions, but noted, "Our biggest expense comes from the truck being down. We'll use the dealer for some of those things, but sometimes the truck will sit at the dealer for days."
Price vs. Value
While distributors often complain that fleets buy too heavily on price, these panelists seemed to understand the value of looking at total life cycle costs rather than just pennies up front.
"The value of the piece that I purchase is offset by the number of times that I've got to do the job," Cain said. "If I've got to pull apart and redo it, it's not worth it to me. Sometimes buying the cheaper part is just going to buy you more work. We don't look for the most expensive part, but we do look for a part that's going to last."
Prime's Higgins agreed. "I am on our folks to buy the highest quality product at the lowest cost. We recognize the difference between cost and price – [we look at the] lowest cost of ownership."
They also agreed that they saw value from vendors who supply training, but that it needs to be structured to meet the time constraints of the fleets better.
"Our local vendors will bring manufacturers' reps in," said Ahern's Cain. "I would do more classes if I could do a 30 minute class over a two-hour class. I don't have three hours for a class for my shop, but we can definitely do a shorter version of it. Shoot us a DVD occasionally and give us a quick rundown."
Republic's Svehla said the company relies heavily on vendor-based training. "Our schedules are very difficult to free up a lot of guys to go to training, so we've been pushing them to develop some online interactive on-demand training."
"Quick training, we need to do more of that," agreed Prime's Higgins. "You just can't do enough to stay on top of this for our mechanics. Some failure analysis, as well. I think [suppliers] probably do a lot of failure analysis, but maybe bring it back to us and show if if there's something we're doing" that is causing parts to fail early.