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How to do Preventative Maintenance in Trucking

A truck breakdown is every owner operators worst nightmare. The fear of hundreds of dollars in towing charges (on top of inflated repair prices!) is enough to keep any owner operator up at night. But low profit margins and a slow market makes it challenging to put money away into an emergency repair fund. With truck repair labor rates surpassing $110/hour, some emergency funds may only cover half the costs. In the trucking industry, an owner operator must not only have a hefty emergency fund, but must also have a periodic truck maintenance program in place.

Preventative maintenance is one of the most important things in trucking that many owners neglect. Whether it be the down time for maintenance, or the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude, doing periodic maintenance to your truck will save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in the long run. When small problems begin to show up, they should be addressed immediately because they will eventually lead to a bigger, more expensive problem.

preventative maintenance trucking auto transport

My truck on the side of the road after a breakdown.

My own truck breakdown

This past March I had an unpleasant reminder to the importance of preventative maintenance. I figured that if the truck started and moved, that I really shouldn’t worry about anything other than the typical safety requirements. For a few years I have been having an issue with my fuel tanks not leveling out. Since it really didn’t create any issues other than having to fuel up more often, I neglected it. One day this fault finally turned into a bigger problem that caused a break down. After a hefty towing and repair bill, I found out the reason my tanks weren’t leveling was because one of the fuel pick up tubes was cracked and had finally broken off.

“Breaking down on the side of the highway puts you in a vulnerable position because it is hard to diagnose a problem when you have cars and trucks zooming past you and failing to merge.”

Breaking down on the side of the highway puts you in a vulnerable position because it is hard to diagnose a problem when you have cars and trucks zooming past you and failing to merge. I ended up calling a service truck that charged me over $800 dollars to tell me that I needed my truck towed to a repair shop. The towing charges came out to $1200 for a 45 mile tow to the dealer. Finally a week later the dealer called to let me know that they fixed the fuel issue and found another issue with my top end. After all was said and done, I ended up paying over $9,000 for this total ordeal. With my emergency fund fully depleted I started running again and within two weeks my truck broke down again. This time, the issue was with the engine. The 6th cylinder lost compression and my blow-by tube turned into a smoke machine.

peventative maintenance trucking auto transport car hauler

This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. When the dealer said I would possibly need an overhaul on an engine with 300,000 miles after an overhaul, I felt my biggest fears take over. I started to think about how I can liquidate all my assets and shut down the business so that I would at the very least come out even with my losses. With an emergency fund that at this point was pretty much non-existent, I was starting to consider other career options.

“If you want to stay afloat you have to be proactive.”

After taking the weekend off to gather my thoughts and ideas, I realized that the breakdown was one of the best things that happened to me. I got so used to it being easy that this was a welcoming wake up call to show me that in this business it isn’t easy. If you want to stay a float you have to be proactive. You can’t expect business to be easy. Most people fail in this business not because they plan to fail but because they fail to plan. I realized that all of my truck breakdowns that occurred could have been prevented had I been more proactive. When I was having issues with my fuel, I should’ve had it checked and the problem would have been solved without the need for towing or service calls. Had I been proactive, I would have taken the truck in to have it checked when my I realized more smoke and lower fuel mileage. If I had all these issues addressed at my local shop, I would have spent maybe half of what I spent after the fact.

Tips on Preventative Maintenance

A thorough pre-trip inspection is one of the best and cheapest forms of preventative maintenance in trucking, and especially auto transport. Most problems begin to show slow in trucking, and then they scale up to bigger problems.

WATCH, ROTATE and REPLACE TIRES

Checking your tires regularly for wear will help you spot issues. If you catch a tire issue early enough, you can usually rotate the tire and save it from total destruction.

REPLACE OIL or WEAR OUT THE ENGINE

Your oil level in your engine can tell you a lot about the condition of the engine. If the oil level keeps getting lower there is either an oil leak, the compressor is taking oil, or there is excessive wear in your engine. It is usually ok to add half to one gallon in between oil changes but anything more than that and that may be a sign of some component beginning to fail.

CHECK WHEELS and HUBS EVERY STOP

When you pull over after driving for a while, it is also great to walk around the truck and touch the hubs of each wheel. Any hub that burns your hand should be addressed as this could mean that the bearings are starting to give. This is cheap insurance since a hub catching on fire could lead to your whole load going up in flames.

TAKE NOTE of CHANGES

Preventative maintenance is a must in trucking. You can’t expect to run your truck without having to invest in its maintenance. Excessive smoke, poor fuel economy, and rough idle, can all be indications of some component starting to fail. Just like a toothache, if you wait too long, this can lead to bigger and more expensive problems down the road. Sometimes it’s hard to give out your hard earned money into fixing things that may seem like they do not need to be fixed, however, in the long run, it will be worth your while and it will be a lot cheaper. Trust me, I’ve been there.

preventative maintenance in trucking

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How to Handle a Carrier – Broker Relationship in Car Transport

Tom Stec of Fury Transport is a Super Dispatch customer and occasional blog contributor.

When I started my career as a car hauler I learned a valuable lesson about how to handle damage claims. After delivering a vehicle, the dealer found damage to the undercarriage. The broker notified me about the damages and my initial reaction was to deny the claims made against me. I was given two options to resolve the claim; either pay for the damages or not pay and be blacklisted by the broker.

At the time I thought this was unfair to me because normally I don’t check the undercarriage of vehicles and as a result, I did not list damages on my condition report. What really helped ease the situation was that the broker was very calm and told me it’s not a big deal, just a cost of doing business.

Mistakes like this happen all the time in this industry. I was reluctant to pay but I knew that in the long run it was not worth losing contact with this broker over a couple hundred dollars. I generated far more revenue hauling for this broker and I knew it was not a wise business decision to get blacklisted and miss out on future potential profits.

Carrier – Broker relationships have deteriorated in the new age of car transport

The internet has revolutionized the car transport industry with the formation of load boards such as CentralDispatch. Online load boards have made it easier for carriers to book loads and have made it easier for carriers to connect with brokers. Though the internet has simplified the process of connecting with brokers it has made it harder for carriers to build solid, lasting business relationships. Before the internet, carriers and brokers relied on mutual relationships of trust and honesty to get loads picked up and delivered.Today,, many car haulers fail to create any lasting relationships with brokers because the internet enables haulers to replace them with another.

Though the internet has simplified the process of connecting with brokers it has made it harder for carriers to build solid, lasting business relationships.

But accidents in this industry are bound to happen.  And it’s beneficial for both carriers and brokers to be honest with each other not only for the sake of building lasting relationships, but also to ease the process of settling the claims that inevitably happen.

Whereas, dishonesty creates problems for brokers who then have to deal with customers. Dishonesty isn’t just hiding damages:it can also be something like not delivering on time. Delaying delivery further complicates situation between the broker-carrier, broker-customer, and ultimately carrier-broker.

Bad business hurts the broker and the customer in car transportSuper Dispatch broker car transport

Sal T. at Pristine Auto Group in Bloomfield, NJ is a used car dealer that had a serious situation with a carrier being dishonest and evasive. Sal sold a vehicle to a customer in Florida and dispatched a carrier to pick up the vehicle. The carrier picked up the vehicle, collected payment, and told Sal the vehicle would be delivered four days later.

“A week later my customer calls to get an update on the shipment and tells me that the carrier will be later than expected due to a hurricane” said Sal. At the time, Sal didn’t think much of it and said he would “rather have vehicle arrive later and in good condition, than risk the vehicle being damaged”. Two weeks go by and Sal’s customer calls and demands to know when his vehicle will be delivered. The buyer was very frustrated because the carrier kept delaying the delivery times and ultimately stopped receiving his calls.

“About 3 weeks after the vehicle was picked up the buyer called threatening me with legal actions and claiming I stole his money and defrauded him.” said Sal. More than three weeks after the vehicle was picked up, Sal was finally able to get a hold of the carrier and had the vehicle brought back to him. To alleviate the situation, Sal purchased the buyer a plane ticket to fly to New Jersey and drive the car back to Florida. But after some research, Sal realized that the carrier that picked up the vehicle had is MC Authority revoked by the DOT and was unable to operate his truck.

The carrier’s dishonesty resulted in monetary damages for Sal and resulted in Sal’s customer losing trust in the process of having vehicles transported by car haulers.

“Had the carrier been truthful from the start, I would have been able to find another company to deliver the vehicle,” Sal asserted. “His dishonesty not only caused me to lose money on the first shipment, it also caused me to lose money on buying a plane ticket for the buyer. Now I have to go through the trouble of small claims court to get my money back on the payment I made to the carrier because when he brought back the vehicle, he said he didn’t have the money right now.” said Sal.

If the carrier had been truthful, and communicated the problem with the Sal, all of this could have been avoided. The carrier’s dishonesty resulted in monetary damages for Sal and resulted in Sal’s customer losing trust in the process of having vehicles transported by car haulers. Simply being honest could have have prevented a chain of negative feelings and events from taking place.

The carrier has ruined his relationship with Sal and has narrowed his network of brokers for employment. This was an easy job where everyone could have left satisfied, if the carrier had just been honest.

The Broker – Carrier relationship can benefit everyone – if you let it.

Building a good relationship with brokers can lead to more profits for the carrier. One of the greatest benefits to maintaining a good relationship with brokers is that those brokers will call you first when they have a good load and they will generally be able to offer more for the load because they trust that the carrier can get it done without any issues.

I have built a solid relationship with a broker I work with and whenever that broker gets a load he usually offers it to me first. This is beneficial for me because I am offered the load before it is put up on the load board. I have no one to compete with and I know that the load will be paid on time without any issues. With trust and honesty I am also able to ask more for the load and the broker is always willing to work with me so that both parties are happy with the negotiated price. On top of all this, the broker always offers me a no fee quick pay instead of the standard fifteen day pay.

With trust and honesty I am also able to ask more for the load and the broker is always willing to work with me so that both parties are happy with the negotiated price.

The importance of maintaining a good relationship between brokers is essential for carriers to make it in the long run of their business. When carriers focus on building lasting relationships, they end up making more profits and are given more opportunities. In this new age of car transport, carriers must treat their business as a brand and work every day to build a good brand image. When a carrier provides excellent service and a lot of value to a broker or customer, they build a better brand image. With a better brand image, those customers are likely going to come back for more business. Repeat customers are what carriers need to prosper in the trucking industry, especially during the slow times when there isn’t much work. When damage claims arise, the process of handling these claims is so much smoother when the carrier is honest and values the relationship they have with the broker. Honesty and integrity will allow both parties to resolve the issues and meet at terms that are fair for both sides. We all know how competitive the car transport industry is so we must seek to provide more value to customers in the form of honesty and integrity. Once a customer sees value in a company they will likely want to work with that company again.

Tom Stec is Owner and Operator of Fury Transport and a Super Dispatch customer.