Maintenance, Regulatory Requirements and Ethics
Being and independent operator requires a good understanding of the impact of good maintenance and poor maintenance. Short term cash savings verses long term reduction in downtime and operational costs is critical to every operators business understanding.
I recently had to do a safety on my personal vehicle. I was given several choices in the type of “safety” I wanted: high end, middle of the road or just barely pass. I was then given options as to the quality of parts I desired to install: high end, mid range or low cost. Everything came down to my attitude towards the vehicle in question. Do I want to “flip it” or keep it long term?
None of these options were illegal, they were business options. Given the use of my vehicle I could choose the level of commitment I wanted to its long term feasibility.
I now understand why so many used car dealerships have their own maintenance shops to perform their own safeties. If their level of commitment is “flip it” their choices are directed to barely pass and low cost, neither of which are illegal by the way. However, its an ethical choice maintenance shops and dealerships make all the time.
Every independent operator needs to know these tensions in their industry. Counseling hundreds of operators I am emphatically convinced that few to no operators have the identical commitment level to their equipment. I know one operator that will replace their alternator every four years whether its in great shape or not. Since the life expectancy is four years for an alternator, they don’t want to live on “borrowed time” with something five years old. Another operator carries a spare alternator in their bunk. Both have similar commitment to their potential downtime yet different approach. Neither, by the way, is wrong.
Some carriers don’t perform complete oil changes in the last year of a lease. Preferring to just swap filters only combined with limited regular scheduled maintenance (such as low quality or temporary repairs). They may save thousands or tens of thousands of dollars using these policies. However, what affect does this have on their long term reputation? Many would say “no effect at all” because on the day they hand their leased trucks in they are no longer liable for its long term performance. From a legal perspective they are correct, they very well are not liable for its long term performance. However, those actions contribute to a cast away mentality in our economic system.
I know a carrier that purchases new equipment and once management has determined it fully utilized by their company drivers they send it through their maintenance shop for a high level safety (a practice they instilled since new). Once completed, they offer the equipment to operators at a fare price. The company carries their own warranty plan (not full but fare) and is committed to seeing their operators successful. In my 20+ years in the industry my opinion concludes that these trucks produce the greatest long term efficiency and one of the highest success rates to operators.
Independent operators generally take much better individual care of their equipment than company drivers do (or a carrier can implement). They do because they have the vested interest in the equipment’s operational efficiency. No carrier can match the attention to detail and care an operator can develop with their own equipment. It’s the most efficient method of equipment management… provided the operator cares for its long term performance.
There is no regulatory body that cares for equipment as much as the long term minded owner. However, the key is long term minded. It holds a professional intent within its very definition.
If you buy a truck from a “professional” operator (long term minded) you know what kind of truck you will get. If you work for a carrier who is truly long term minded in their choices and policies it will reflect in their ethical operations. Business is deeply saturated with ethical choices, most of which have nothing to do with illegal activity.