With a focus on counseling, NationaLease’s 600 service locations throughout the U.S. and Canada (with a combined customer fleet of over 125,000 tractors, trucks and trailers), newly-named Vice President of Truck Technology and Maintenance at NationaLease, Joe Puff, offers valuable observations on how truck maintenance has changed for the better.
“The fundamentals are changing,” Puff said, a trucking industry veteran who even turned wrenches at the start of his stellar career. “Matching the components with the application is a given now; it’s a balancing act. Under-spec’ing will unnecessarily drive maintenance costs, while over-spec’ing can possibly deliver zero return on the invested dollars. Today’s dynamics require a shift in our equipment specifying.”
Founded in 1944, NationaLease is one of the largest full-service truck leasing organizations and it provides comprehensive fleet management services for private fleets and transportation service providers.
Battery and charging system: “Must be right for the applications and provide starting and deep cycling. They must have reserve capacity and deep cycle recovery since the system powers the liftgate, the APU and idling.”
Automated manual transmissions: “A definite shift here as they’re more effective and smartly integrated with the engines. Great fuel efficiency gain is definite, plus there’s no shock from manual shift changes.” Puff mentioned the challenges in the used vehicle market noting that a unit with an overdrive transmission will command more money but direct drive is better and with less parasitic loss.
“Under-spec’ing will unnecessarily drive maintenance costs, while over-spec’ing can possibly deliver zero return on the invested dollars. Today’s dynamics require a shift in our equipment specifying.” – Joe Puff, Vice President of Truck Technology and Maintenance at NationaLease
An analytical focus: “We advise our member companies to spec smarter with an analytical focus on even the smallest of specs,” Puff explained. “Those specs consider efficiency, productivity and safety.
“Fleets should balance capital equipment costs with their total operating cost—the operating side of the equation plus the resale value. Optimize those dollars spent during and after the initial purchase. No longer can we afford a ‘so what’ response.”
Listen to the drivers: “They are a huge voice in the finalization of specifications. They know what’s best on the road and our members listen intently to their comments.”
Purchase based on value and performance: “Our industry has moved away from the finance or chief financial officer influence on vehicle purchases. They now recognize that ‘up-front costs’ is only a piece of the equation … heck, an initial $200 savings could end up costing an operation $4-5,000.” Puff advised seeking some standardization in specs yet to maintain some flexibility to be able to handle various vocational needs.
Safety: “The component systems and the related software services are so much better. Roll stability works great and we’re monitoring the benefits of collision mitigation and lane departure warning systems. It’s likely both will be utilized in the future.”
Smart, planned truck maintenance has changed significantly and will continue to do so, according to Puff, who managed at Ryder and a truck dealership.
“We have our prototype generic vehicle specifications, plus our members rely heavily on their respective OE dealer networks, especially the dealer’s fleet specialty manager at each location. It’s mandatory that our members optimize gradeability and startability and rely on the OEM’s recommendations. They know where the sweet spot is,” he said.
NationaLease also conducts an annual maintenance managers meeting, according to Dean Vicha, president of NationaLease. The meeting is geared to the specific needs of the maintenance manager, covering topics that include electrical systems, telematics, supply management programs, warranty program management and technician recruitment.
The company has its annual Tech Challenge (fourth year) in which nine regional winners of the written portion of the competition compete for the title of NationaLease Top Tech and the chance to represent NationaLease in the TMC Annual SuperTech Competition this September in Orlando. Each of the nine regional winners will participate in the hands-on competition, which takes place during the NationaLease maintenance managers meeting.