Denise Rondini

Denise Rondini

At the top of every fleet owner’s list of concerns is the driver shortage, which is affecting their ability to expand and, in some cases, meet current demand. While truck dealers and other service providers may not be able to do anything to fix the driver shortage, they can play a big role in helping keep trucks on the road longer, which can reduce the need for additional drivers.

Scott Pearson, president and dealer principal at Peterbilt of Atlanta, says dealers need to look at service differently than they have in the past, because fleets are still unhappy about how long it is taking for repairs to be completed.

Speaking at a recent ACT Research seminar, Pearson acknowledged that improvements have been made. Today onboard systems sense a problem, communicate with the call center and the fleet, and develop an action plan to get the truck in and out of the service bay as rapidly as possible. Once in the bay, most dealers have triage bays that promise complete diagnosis in two hours.

While all this has helped speed things up, fleets still complain about dwell time at dealerships. Pearson agrees, and he thinks more needs to be done — including a shift in the way truck service is viewed.

He is doing that at his three dealership locations. During his presentation he talked about using a MASH-type approach to truck service — MASH standing for Mobile Army Surgical Hospital and familiar to many people from the television series of the same name.

Rather than looking at trucks as machines, Pearson and his staff look at trucks as patients in need of emergency help. And just like doctors who must have the right instruments to operate, Pearson’s technicians must have the right tools to heal their patients. He makes sure they have tools such as laptops, updated software and multimeters in addition to investing in ongoing training so they can keep their skills sharp.

But it goes beyond that. Just as hospitals are now taking a team approach to health care to ensure their patients’ well-being, Peterbilt Atlanta has teams of technicians working on its customers’ trucks. Master technicians working with two assistants have been able to routinely and significantly cut repair times. In some cases they have been able to complete jobs that typically took seven hours in five. The end result: The dealership has more time to work on other trucks so other fleets get their trucks on the road faster. The clutch repair that had a dwell time of 29 hours can now be completed in 11. And because the assistant technicians are paid at a lower rate, the dealership still makes money, which it then can continue to invest in training and tooling.

Pearson admits there is still work to do on making sure there is a steady flow of technicians who are working on becoming master techs. That doesn’t happen overnight, and he has made the commitment to ensuring that his less experienced techs get the training they need to become master technicians and continue the cycle.

Looking at trucks as patients in need of emergency service may not be the only answer to getting trucks in and out of service bays more quickly, but it is one dealer’s attempt to address the problem of unacceptable repair times that plague fleets and keep freight from moving. Maybe looking at truck repair in a different way will inspire even more dealers to take steps to get trucks in and out of shops STAT.