With more than 2,700 trailers scattered across the lower 48 states and Mexico, conducting regular trailer inspections and repairs has been a daunting task for Paschall Truck Lines. But a contract service adopted more than a year ago has effectively complemented the fleet's efforts
A fleetHQ technician inspects a trailer where it's parked, and after a go-ahead from Paschall Truck Lines, will fix whatever's wrong.
A fleetHQ technician inspects a trailer where it's parked, and after a go-ahead from Paschall Truck Lines, will fix whatever's wrong.
and improved scores in the federal Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's CSA enforcement can have serious implications for a fleet unless its drivers and equipment are as compliant as possible. The detached nature of trailer operations makes them a special challenge, so Paschall, based in Murray, Ky., turned to a Trailer Readiness service from Wingfoot Commercial Tire's fleetHQ.

Paschall helped pilot the program, which is now available through fleetHQ from more than 2,000 locations throughout North America, Goodyear says.

The fleetHQ Trailer Readiness Program is offered to fleets of all sizes. Trained technicians inspect components such as tires, suspensions and lights, following the same criteria that state and federal roadside inspectors use. The results of the inspections are then made available online through a secure fleetHQ web portal.

Scores improve

"We chose the Trailer Readiness Program from fleetHQ after looking at several options," says Scott Gray, maintenance and breakdown manager for Paschall.

"We're glad we chose the program because we've seen a 10% reduction of our overall CSA maintenance score in 12 months," he says. "That's a remarkable change. We're also getting improved trailer productivity and efficiency because we're not seeing as many breakdowns or citations by catching these problems up front."

Before it initiated the Trailer Readiness Program in 2011, Paschall Truck Lines wanted to significantly increase the frequency of its trailer inspections. "But we were having a problem getting trailers thoroughly inspected every six months," he says.

For the most part, Paschall's drivers conduct thorough inspections of their tractors and trailers because they control them, Gray says. But drivers sometimes pick up trailers at night, when they might not see leaking wheel seals, chafed wiring or missing reflective tape, or worn or damaged tires. Even in daylight it can be difficult to find burned out running lights.

"Then there's the issue of who takes responsibility," Gray says. "It can be difficult for a driver to report an issue that can slow down their on-time performance, especially when the driver who had the trailer before didn't report it."

How it works

So Paschall sent out a request for trailer inspection programs. Goodyear submitted the winning proposal with its then-new trailer inspection program. Here's how the fleetHQ Trailer Readiness Program works:

When customers let Paschal know that several of its trailers are parked at their facilities, PTL's dispatchers or maintenance personnel check records to see if the trailers are due for inspections or maintenance. If so, they contact fleetHQ to arrange a visit by a tire or maintenance technician from the nearest Wingfoot Truck Care Center, local Goodyear-authorized dealer, or another preferred provider.

Technicians inspect and record any problems with tire pressures, tread depth, trailer lights, wheel seals, air valves, air lines on the trailer's suspension and braking system, and reflective tape and mud flaps. The one-page inspection forms they use follow the same format as those used by state and federal roadside inspectors in a Department of Transportation Level 1 Inspection.

Technicians look for the same problems that authorities look for, and pay particular attention to any problems that would result in an Out-of-Service violation during a standard roadside inspection.

"They will contact us and we will arrange repairs by Wingfoot," says Grey. "Usually the service technician call us from the location. We will authorize the work and it's done immediately."

Inspection results are also sent to the fleetHQ Solutions Center, where they're entered into the password-protected fleetHQ online system, says Jeremy Edds, region sales manager for Wingfoot Truck Care Centers. Authorized personnel at Paschall can then view the inspection results through the fleetHQ web portal and schedule any additional repairs or maintenance.

"An inspection through the fleetHQ Trailer Readiness program is not a substitute for a complete Level 1 DOT inspection," Edds says. "However, the program is designed to augment what fleets like Paschall already do through daily pre-trip inspections, so it can help identify issues that drivers might miss."

"The fleetHQ Trailer Readiness Program allows us to take a more proactive role in helping drivers monitor the safety of our trailers," Gray says. "It's helped us reduce the number of violations in our Level 1 DOT inspections by 35% year over year."

SiefkesPetit Communications contributed to this post.