Have you ever taken time out of your busy schedule to find out what prompts most of the road calls in your fleet? An in-depth search might turn up things in your maintenance programs that can be improved in order to reduce calls for roadside assistance.

Road calls are expensive – especially when towing is involved. In addition, there's the delay time, missed delivery schedules, driver overtime, etc.

The data below comes from a longtime business friend, Oren Summer, who is president and founder of FleetNet America, one of the nation's largest independent road service providers, headquartered in Cherryville, NC.

FleetNet America is an outgrowth of Carolina Breakdown Service, which Oren set up while heading maintenance operations at Carolina Freight.

Data is based on 67,365 road calls in 2004 and 85,551 in 2005. This specifically defined database represents 58 percent and 73 percent of total calls, respectively, in 2004 and 2005, according to Summer.

Using 2002 as base comparison, there's been a significant reduction in road calls for tire failures and repairs to brake air lines in recent years. Not surprisingly, however, is the fact that tire problems remain by far the No. 1 cause, representing about half of all FleetNet's calls for service. Note that in '05, that figure dropped below 50 percent for the first time. Summer's "gut feel" is that tire quality and durability has been improving, and some fleet customers have upgraded their tire programs.

Towing calls continue to climb, according to the statistics, and Summer points to today's diesel engines with electronic controls and sensors as the probable cause.

He says that when sensors report dangerous events, the engines' electronic control modules (ECMs) shut down. As a result, drivers are left stranded at the side of the road and a tow is required to an engine or truck shop that can read and interpret the fault codes.

A new category in 2005 is "transmission not shifting." Summer says today's popular automated manual transmissions on occasion have a malfunction in the wiring connectors that causes the transmission to stop shifting.

  2002 2004 2005
Tires – all causes 60.2% 53.3% 48.5%
Towing 7.7 14.8 15.6
Jump or pull-start 5.2 5.0 6.5
Repair brake hoses 6.7 4.5 4.9
R&R fuel filter 2.6 3.6 4.3
R&R wiring/plugs/lights 4.8 2.1 3.3
R&R brake chamber 3.0 3.3 3.3
R&R any light assembly 1.6 2.3
R&R alternator 3.5 2.2 2.8
Out of fuel 1.3 1.4 1.5
Transmission not shifting 1.0
Check/repair air leaks 1.5 1.9
Replace water hoses 1.0 1.2 1.0
Major brake air system 1.6 1.3
Replace alternator belts 0.6