No matter what make of truck you drive, no matter which brand of components it has it is subject to breakdowns at any given time and in any place. Unfortunately, breakdowns often occur in remote areas leaving a driver stranded, perhaps on the side of the road.
One driver we spoke with related this story: “I was loaded in Florida and heading for Toronto during an uneventful trip for the most part. While cruising through Ohio on Interstate 75 in a late model tractor the engine suddenly started to misfire and knock. The feel and the sound let me know it was serious so I immediately shut down the engine and coasted to a stop on the right shoulder.
“I was a few miles north of Wapakoneta when it happened in late winter so I called dispatch to report the trouble and then called the T/A Truck Stop at Wapakoneta, who recommended a tow company and gave me the number. After a couple hours the truck showed up and towed my loaded rig to the nearest dealer only 20 or so miles away. It was a weekend so the dealership was closed, of course.
“Dispatch sent another tractor to get me and my loaded trailer to our yard in Southern Ontario. It took several hours in a stone cold cab for the tractor to arrive to my rescue.
“The following week the dealership reported the problem was a broken fuel injector, or so they thought. As they delved deeper the technicians found that the broken injector had bent valves, destroyed the cylinder head, and wiped out the turbocharger.
“It was a warranty repair so most of it was covered but the truck sat out of service in that dealer shop for 3 weeks earning no revenue. And seeing as I worked for a very small fleet it meant I was furloughed for the duration. There simply was no other equipment for me to work with.”
Trucks are more Complex than Ever
That driver’s experience was unfortunately, not so rare. Today’s trucks are so much more complicated with onboard computers and sensors subject to fail at any inopportune moment. And so many highly sophisticated components and systems that, while mostly durable and dependable, may still fail while on the road.
So, what do you do when this happens to one of your trucks while away on a run? Pick up the phone and start scratching your head wondering who to call? The fact is, most large fleets already have a plan in place ready to be put to work when a breakdown happens on the road. Even some smaller fleets have adopted this strategy and put it to work to solve the repair.
Create a Breakdown Plan
If your fleet hasn’t created a plan to work on breakdowns on the highway it’s time to make one now. The first thing for the team to do when a truck breaks down on a run is to gather the basics when the driver calls dispatch. Questions to ask the driver:
- What is the nature of the problem? For instance, is it something as simple as a flat tire that can be repaired by calling a road service truck? Is it a glowing warning light on the dash? Or have you been involved in a traffic accident?
- Is the truck still drivable if we find a nearby shop for repair or does it require a tow?
- What is your exact location?
- Are you parked in a safe spot?
- Have you placed your safety warning devices to alert traffic?
- What are your up to date hours of service remaining? (This is required if you are sending a spare tractor for the driver and load and your driver needs to carry on with delivery).
When the truck reaches a nearby shop (whether towed or driven) how long will it take to get a diagnosis of the problem and get a repair estimate? How long is the repair expected to take? If it’s a warranty issue should we forward the unit to the nearest dealership? These are the questions you need answered in order to make a decision about how to handle getting your truck back in service.
Then you will know whether the truck needs to go to a dealership or to the nearest repair shop. Either way your next option is to search online to find the nearest shop to handle the repair, be it independent or OEM. Many breakdown networks exist throughout North America. Most of them pay to have their locations and contact info available through apps and advertising. Their information is readily available via a computer or smartphone. Always check customer reviews before choosing a shop.
Of course, the key to reducing breakdowns starts with frequent scheduled maintenance in your fleet shop or by a third party facility. But, unfortunately maintenance will never be able to prevent all road breakdowns. As long as there are trucks there will be breakdowns. We hope the above checklist will prompt you to form a plan for your fleet. Someday you’ll be glad you did. Happy trucking.