Every time I write about wheel security, I get e-mails from technicians complaining about the complacency they see in their own shops when it comes to wheel care. So I know it’s an ongoing issue. Informal chats here and there always confirm it, and people are forever telling me to keep on pushing. So I do.
There will be those of you who say, “Not again,” but I make no apologies for harping on this. I wrote about wheel-offs in this space just over a year ago, and previously in 2014. Fact is, I’ve been addressing it since the 1990s when wheels seemed to be falling off trucks all the time — and killing people in the process. They still are, though maybe not so often because we understand more these days. But we all know they happen, and I don’t need iffy statistics to prove it.
I’m writing now because of a disturbing e-mail I had not long ago from a veteran technician at a large fleet, which he described as “so-called leaders in preventive maintenance.”
Not so, apparently.
“I can assure you complacent thinking is the norm around here,” he wrote, requesting anonymity.
“Sure we had the new procedures and some training thrown at us when wheel-offs were in the news, but that is not the case now. Of the 12 technicians working in my shop, there is only one installing wheels correctly, one comes close, and the others aren’t even in the ball park. Management does nothing and will do nothing until a wheel-off occurs. And when that does happen they will review the procedures taken, and when they find the tech who didn’t do it right they will fire him and remind those that are left of the proper procedures. A week or two later, things will be back to ‘normal’.
“Are we doing enough? In the time I have been with this company, I have been on only nine training sessions, each being one to three days in length. That’s a maximum of 27 days for the 15-plus years I have been here. If it wasn’t for my own initiative, I would know how to grease a truck and change oil and that’s it. With all the systems on a vehicle today, I hardly think 27 days of training covers it. We have senior technicians who can’t adjust clutches, who can’t inspect brakes properly, who know little about fifth wheels or the electronics on a vehicle. Our company is adding to the problem by hiring unskilled labor to perform vehicle inspections. These same guys are mounting and dismounting tires without knowledge of what they are doing. Training doesn’t exist.”
Is that typical? I hope not. Is it rare? I fear the answer to that one, but you tell me.
This is not just a safety concern, even though the calamity quotient of poorly attached wheels is mighty high. It’s also a business matter in an archly competitive marketplace. Whether we’re talking about wheel integrity or brake adjustment or any other such matter, haphazard maintenance is a cost multiplier. Downtime, unhappy drivers, bitching customers... you name it, they’ll all contribute to an ugly bottom line.
Complacency in the shop can be a killer in more ways than one.