Roadside breakdowns cause missed deliveries, customer complaints and lost revenue, but Quality Carriers is using data to turn reactive roadside repairs into proactive actions that are driving maintenance improvements and increasing uptime.
“I believe breakdowns are a reflection of the health of my fleet and my shops. When I see a truck breaking down on the side of the road, it will tell me something somewhere failed,” said Scott Hunt, Vice President of Operations for Quality Carriers, Tampa, Florida-based trucking and chemical transportation business. “Unplanned maintenance is expensive, and it affects our service to our customers.”
While Hunt aims to avoid roadside events, he knows they are inevitable. So, he focuses on getting drivers back on the road quickly and then reviewing VMRS data to gain valuable insights to help minimize future events.
Quality Carriers partnered with FleetNet America® to handle roadside repair needs about five years ago. Hunt said he has used the data he receives through the partnership to reduce unscheduled maintenance. “This data gives me the ability to zero in on the things that make a difference,” he said.
Paul Gildenhorn, Vice President of Sales for FleetNet America, said FleetNet America’s primary value is to get the fleet up and running faster than anyone else. “The other value proposition is giving the data to help fleets reduce maintenance events. You then become more of a partner than a vendor,” he said.
Quality Carriers averages about 60 to 70 calls a week and 1,400 events a year, and Hunt receives weekly reports outlining all events. “It provides visibility to the health of my fleet,” he said, adding that he tracks everything, including his average time down. “At any given time, I can go to the president of the company and say, ‘My downtime is X.’ He can understand that.”
Each Monday, Hunt spends about 45 minutes reviewing and color-coding roadside repairs. “I go through and highlight all the tires in yellow, the tractors in blue, bold all the trailers, and highlight in red all things I think are non-shop related—a driver hits a pothole and truck shuts down, or a driver has an accident,” he said.
Hunt also receives monthly, quarterly, and annual reports. “To me, it is peeling the onion and giving me a snapshot,” he said. “I’m looking for trends.”
The data has also led the carrier to justify improved tool purchases and labor costs. “I am able to take this data to the executive team or HR team and justify my mechanic cost based on retention and quality,” Hunt said, adding that he has also changed processes based on facts.
After spotting a trend in battery failures, Hunt started spec’ing a different battery and changed the shop’s battery inspection process from cleaning to load testing. “Those are all changes we made, so we don’t end up with trucks on the side of the road,” Hunt said, adding that today’s drivers are placing a much greater electrical load on the tractors. “My new battery costs twice as much as my old battery, but it is worth it because of the battery load.”
Quality Carriers has also used data to identify tire issues with virgin rubber versus recaps, regional concerns and the number of tire events coming from a particular shop. Plus, the fleet implemented a new tire program two years ago. “I still see the same percentage of tire events, but I typically see multiple tires, and I see more tires identified at pre-trip,” he said, adding that he also receives calls from managers repositioning equipment. “Those are somewhat proactive. They still need help, but they are not on the side of the road, which is where I don’t want them to be.”
The fleet is also in the process of bringing casings back. “We spent less money last year than we did the previous year in tires,” Hunt said.
Batteries, tires, hubs and valves are a top priority for Hunt. “Those are big key things,” he said. “I think we’re past the low-hanging fruit, and we’re fine-tuning it. We are constantly watching for something new.”
There are also the unusual one-off events that the carrier can address with specific mechanics. Several years ago, a truck went down, and a service provider found a rag in the brake. Hunt received an email alerting him to the issue. “I called my region manager. He said, ‘I know why you’re calling me.’ That gave immediate response and credibility to the process,” Hunt explained.
Additionally, Hunt takes information and contacts regional managers. “I would say 90% of the time, they’re already in communication with the shop and the mechanic,” he said.
The specific information allows managers to have detailed and productive conversations. “That is the beauty of the email. The terminal manager sees it and says, ‘What did we do wrong mechanically,” Hunt said. “It provides visibility, and everybody is able to act on the same information.”
Mechanic retention has continued to improve because of Quality Carrier’s education efforts. “We’ve netted up 22 mechanics since July while I think most of the industry has been lucky to maintain or lost ground,” he said, adding that the CFO understands the value of the company’s mechanics. “Part of that is driven by the fact that we know when we do work over the road, it costs more money.”
Quality Carriers also uses the information to focus on any needed driver training, such as for drivers who repeatedly run out of fuel or lock keys in the tractor. “I get my top 10 tractors and drivers. I recognize driver names. It isn’t good or bad, and sometimes what it is saying is this driver is really good at pre-trips,” Hunt said.
Direct Communication Speeds Results
One of Quality Carrier’s goals was to have a single number for drivers to call when they need assistance. “Before drivers might call dispatch, the shop or the person they worked with during orientation. My team would have gotten into some database, and we would have had multiple people calling multiple vendors,” Hunt said. “The drivers like having that one number. They know it, and they call it.”
Drivers can also use the FleetNet mobile app, and Quality Carriers is putting the app on the new ELDs it is implementing at the end of the year. “They’re moving pretty quickly to the app, and I think the operations people like it because they don’t want to be on hold,” Hunt said.
Maintenance and timely roadside service improve the driver experience, Hunt said. “Without drivers, the business doesn’t go,” he said, adding that without mechanics, the drivers don’t go. “My vision my mission for my team is to deliver their product on time safely. When we fail on the side of the road, we put our driver at risk.”
Hunt said he’d be struggling if he didn’t have the data. “I actually look forward to Monday mornings. I like putting together my metrics,” he said.
Learn more about how your data can work for you by calling 855-836-3912 to speak with a FleetNet America team member.