Your fleet’s truck service bottom line depends on you. You’re on the shop floor with your techs, in the back office watching the P&Ls and ensuring that trucks are getting in and out of your facility as efficiently as possible. Yet in today’s world of high freight demand, there’s always more to do and that can require a helping hand. Independent service providers are fighting the same service battle as you are; partnering with one means having someone who understands your service management headaches standing beside you with a big bottle of Advil.
“If a fleet wants us to help with their business program, we’ve got to decide what it is they’re trying to do and develop the program around those needs,” said Tim Grabow, vice president of Blaine Brothers, an independent supplier of parts, service and towing based in Minneapolis. The company specializes in the repair of Class 4 through 8 trucks, in addition to fielding 31 service trucks and eight heavy-duty wreckers to provide 24-hour emergency service, driveline service and diesel repair. Grabow cited ever-evolving service technology as a pain point that his company aims to reduce.
“It’s very difficult to keep up with today’s technology,” he said. “Fleets do a pretty darn good job with the telematics and data side, but on the maintenance side, there’s more to it. That’s where I believe the aftermarket or the dealership comes into play.”
Grabow explained that Blaine Brothers spends an extensive amount of time and money on training technicians, not just on the a truck make, model, but on specific components—the latest engine, transmission or axle technology, for example.
As a fleet service manager, you can gather the service data on the latest equipment all you want, but if you can’t put it to use fixing the components, then you have bigger problems than gathering info.
“It’s hard for fleet service to keep up with the maintenance needs of that technology, and the cost of that technology is so great,” Grabow said, who went on to explain that the value of an independent service provider partner can go even deeper. Blaine Brothers, for example, whose bread and butter is fleet service work, helps keep its customers’ trucks rolling productivity by looking ahead at parts needs.
“Pick the right partner, and then let your local shop inventory those parts for you,” he recommended, pointing to an example of carrying high-cost stock. “Consider air dryers, injectors or turbos—they all come with a hefty core charge; you have to pay that core charge up front in most cases. Or drums—there’s no reason to buy a pallet of drums. That just ties up money. A service provider like us can help you with that.
“You can say to a truly good independent service partner, ‘We go through X number of drums a year,’ and then let them put a good price to it, house it and pay for that.”
Grabow recommended that fleet service managers stay focused on the parts that they know they’ll need in their shops—brake shoes, wheel seals, light bulbs, wires, lubes, etc.—and then pick a service partner they can count on to help with the rest.
“It all starts with picking the right partner,” he reiterated. “Anybody can come in and sell you a brake shoe for $28, and you think you got a deal. The problem is brake shoes crack instantly because they aren’t selling you the right shoe for your application. We understand that if we’re going to sell a part to a customer, we’ve got to be willing to put it on our own vehicles and stand behind it. Plain and simple.”