It seems to be an age-old quandary for fleets: keep maintenance and repair in house, or outsource it. According to MacKay & Company surveys, fleets consistently say they want to outsource more of their maintenance and repair — yet year after year they do not do so.
For outsourcing to be successful the fleet has to find a provider that is a good fit for its operation. There is no quick formula you can use to find the perfect company, be it dealer, independent repair garage or truck stop, to outsource service work to.
However, there are some actions you can take that will get you close to finding the service provider(s) that will mesh best with your operation.
A good place to start is with a list of expectations of not only the types of work you need to have completed, but also things like the hours in which you want work performed, how often and in what manner you want to be communicated with during the repair process, and even what types of reports you expect once the repair is completed. For a complete list of questions to ask service providers, see this issue’s cover story.
While checking on service providers online is a good way to narrow the field, a visit to the service provider’s location is one of the best ways to determine if the company is a good fit for you. Another is talking to other customers of the shop that run equipment similar to yours.
Going to the shop gives you an idea of the culture of the service provider. If its culture is similar to yours, it is more likely they will do what it takes to meet your needs, especially in crunch times.
Joe Laux, CEO of River States Truck and Trailer, says you should look for someone who is willing to customize their maintenance and repair policies to match yours. This is especially important if you are going to perform some maintenance and repair in house in addition to outsourcing. You want to make sure all repairs are completed following your procedures, all the necessary data is collected about the repair, and that reports from external providers contain the same information as reports from your internal service work.
Another key factor to remember in the outsourcing equation is that fleets and service providers have different ways of determining success. According to Kenneth Calhoun, vice president of customer relations at Truck Centers of Arkansas, while both sides measure asset utilization, the assets being utilized are different. “For the fleet it obviously is going to be the piece of equipment and the driver. For the service provider it is bay space and technicians.”
Fleets need to be careful that they are not the ones slowing the repair down. “Nothing is more frustrating [for a service provider] than knowing what is wrong with the truck, having the parts to fix it, but not having the approval from the fleet to go forward and being unable to pin someone down to get that approval,” Calhoun says.
Bruce Greer, president of Kroeger Equipment and Supply, adds, “Fleets make money hauling freight. Shops make money repairing trucks. As long as we keep repairing trucks and they keep hauling freight, we will all make money.”
Laying out expectations by both parties and defining processes at the beginning of the relationship will allow fleets to get the most out of their trucks and drivers, and shops to keep bays and technicians engaged and busy. That translates into profits for both.