Specialized operations require equally precise equipment and maintenance practices, and that is exactly the case at Combined Transport Inc. The Central Point, Ore.-based specialized motor carrier, as well as a hauler of general commodities throughout the lower 48 U.S. states and Canada, routinely handles oversized loads with multi-axle heavy haul trailers. Additionally, the company’s Glass Division uses a variety of specialty lowboy, step-deck and flatbed trailers to meet customer needs.
“We currently have two company shops, which will be replaced by one large new shop in the near future,” says R. Dave Carr, over the road manager, Fleet Services at Combined Transport. “We handle most facets of repair, unless we have extended warranties, and we perform a full range of metal fabrication for heavy trailer work. There isn’t much our staff can’t do in our facilities.
“Our shop is very good at maintaining our fleet and especially at maximizing the life of our heavy haul and specialized glass hauling trailers,” Carr adds. “Given the high cost of those types of trailers, the rebuilding process we have in house goes a very long way toward saving money.”
The Combined Transport fleet is divided by glass, general commodity, and heavy haul units. Tractors include Freightliner Cascadia and Columbia models, Volvo VNM and VNL units, Peterbilt Model 388 and Kenworth T800 tractors used. A variety of standard and specialized trailers are fielded as well.
In general, Carr reports, tractors in the Combined Transport fleet run an initial 500,000 miles in over the road service and then enter a second life at the company’s sister operation, a regional fleet called Blackwell Consolidation. “They run there until about 750,000 miles, at which point they are sold,” he adds. “Those decisions are mostly based on mileage, but trucks that are deemed ‘bad actors’ can be disposed of sooner.”
On the road continuously throughout the continental United States and Canada, the specialized equipment in the Combined Transport fleet can require repairs and other services on a daily basis and often after hours. “The ability to locate an authorized repair facility quickly, communicate with the location to request service and manage the event so the truck is back on the road as fast as possible is essential to providing efficient, on-time service to our customers,” Carr states. “To effectively manage repairs and breakdowns on the road, we’ve been using ASIST, the cloud-based service management platform developed by Decisiv and Volvo Trucks, since it was introduced to us by a local dealer a few years ago.
“The ASIST service relationship management platform is a very effective communications and information portal,” Carr continues. “When our vehicles go into a Volvo Trucks dealer service location, a case is automatically started and a direct line of communication is established. As much as 90% of the time we used to spend looking up details on a vehicle, staying on hold, leaving messages and waiting for return phone calls is eliminated, cutting down on the time we need to manage events and get trucks back in service.”
Integrated with ASIST is the Volvo Action Service (VAS) roadside assistance network, and the National Truck & Trailer Services (NTTS) Breakdown Directory used by Combined Transport to access an industry database of repair locations provides 24/7 breakdown support.
“When one of our vehicles requires service on the road, we need to know quickly where the closest and best vendors are located and have information that’s essential to making effective decisions during the service event,” Carr relates. “With the Decisiv-built ASIST service management platform and Volvo Action Service, we have the resources to handle those situations productively, effectively and efficiently.”
Through the online portal, Combined Transport can find vendors, request service for warranty work, preventive maintenance or breakdowns and communicate during a service event. Included is the ability to view service and breakdown activity using email or text messaging, and on handheld devices.
“ASIST puts everything we need to know about a service event in one online folder, date and time stamped for reference,” Carr explains. “Included is vehicle information, including estimates, approvals, warranty coverage, pictures and notes, as well as our preferred inspection and service procedures and negotiated parts pricing. The exchange of information in real time throughout the service process includes documenting service or repair needs, requests and authorizations.”
Accurately and timely
While that activity can take place several times each day, Carr notes that another capability of the service relationship management platform that is proving valuable for Combined Transport is after hours communications. “Our maintenance management team can access information and manage service events at any time and from anywhere, including on handheld mobile devices,” he explains. “Additionally, we receive emails each morning from Volvo Action Service detailing any service events that occurred overnight and consolidating information we need to ensure repairs are completed accurately and in a timely manner.”
Working with suppliers is a regular, ongoing activity at Combined Transport on several fronts, Carr notes as well. “We also evaluate new systems and components for suppliers from time to time,” he says. “For example, we test tires for manufacturers and in return, we get a good introductory price and data to help with purchase decisions at a later time. That information, along with specs, warranty coverage, weight and driver comfort needs, all factor into the decisions we need to make to keep the fleet running smoothly.”