Mobile Maintenance: A Growing Trend [Commentary]

Photo: Tom Berg

In the two years since he joined The Larson Group, Sean Westlake, director of mobile service, has seen the 21-location dealer group’s mobile service business double. The dealership now has 30 mobile service trucks deployed across its network, which includes Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Ohio, and South Carolina.

“I believe the whole industry is going in this direction,” Westlake says. “You will see more and more mobile service as customers demand it. They have less time to drop trucks off at the shop. It is much more valuable for them to have someone come to them.”

And he’s far from the only one to think so. Bruce Croker, director of after sales at Peterbilt, says, “It is a way for us to more proactively take care of customers whose demands increase every year, especially as they apply to vehicle uptime.”

Brian Conkle, service manager for Fyda Freightliner’s Pittsburg location, says his dealership thought about adding mobile service for a long time before recently launching one truck in its market to make it easier to provide service to customers without adding brick-and-mortar locations. Another reason behind Fyda’s move to mobile service was “to offer customers another solution to keep their trucks moving.”

Today’s mobile service trucks are handling more than just roadside breakdowns. To Croker’s way of thinking, “roadside repair is just the price of entry” to the mobile service market. Fyda’s truck and technician are able to “do 95% of what we do here at the dealership’s shop.” He adds, “We have invested pretty heavily in the truck, and the technician is a highly trained individual.”

“Anything and everything” is the way Westlake describes the services that can be handled by The Larson Group’s mobile technicians. “The only real limitation is the skill level of the technician.”

In fact, it takes a technician with a special skill set to staff a mobile service truck. Not only do they need strong technical skills, but they also need customer service skills. Croker says Peterbilt provides training specifically geared to mobile techs. He adds, “They are essentially running their own service business, so they need to be fairly independent.”

Should you be taking better advantage of mobile service offerings? The first step is to assess your needs. Do you want the mobile service provider to deploy technicians to work in your shop? If so, will this be on a regular basis or as needed? What types of maintenance and repair work do you want them to handle? Just preventive maintenance services? Or other, more involved repairs? Or do you just want them to service the trucks at locations other than your shop?

Once you have an idea of how mobile service can supplement your own service operation, begin interviewing companies that provide mobile service. Your existing selling and/or servicing dealer is a good place to start. Ask them about their capabilities and what types of repairs they can do under the mobile service banner, the skill level of the technicians staffing the mobile service vehicles, the type of training they have received, and whether you will have a specific tech assigned to your fleet and the process for scheduling.

When evaluating the cost of using a mobile service provider compared to bringing the vehicle into the service location yourself, make sure to factor in all the costs. At first glance, mobile service can seem more expensive. However, when you factor in the time and cost of having two people driving the truck to and from the service location, and the fact that those repairs can take days (because of other work being done at the service provider’s location) instead of the hours it will take a mobile tech, you may find that mobile service makes sense from a financial standpoint.

In the future, Westlake says, “In my opinion, mobile service is going to be the mainstream. You are going to smaller and smaller shops and more and more mobile service trucks in the future.”    

About the author
Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini

Aftermarket Contributing Editor

A respected freelance writer, Denise Rondini has covered the aftermarket and dealer parts and service issues for decades. She now writes regularly about those issues exclusively for Heavy Duty Trucking, with information and insight to help fleet managers make smart parts and service decisions, through a monthly column and maintenance features.

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