Oft-forgotten trailers are far more than just a container on wheels. Consider the precise engineering and advanced manufacturing expertise that goes into those trailers, including safety and performance systems for a long, productive life. Similarly, more fleets of all sizes must rely on road-side emergency and maintenance services for their trailer fleets.
While several OE trailer dealers began mobile trailer service as long as 50 years ago, Interstar’s trailer service idea originated from its intermodal business, where industry executive John Shortridge recognized the benefits of on-the-road services to the container industry for 20 years, and identified a natural step-up for U.S. truck operators.
Today, Interstar, based in Florence, Ky., supports and services more than 2,500 large and small trucking fleets, both private and for-hire carriers. Over time, the company’s team of professionals has reportedly mastered the management of its road-service program for trailers, from diagnostic to road-ready repair, including inspections and repairs performed according to fleet guidelines. Scheduled or as-needed service of volumes of equipment is more likely scheduled at the respective terminals or customer facilities.
“Proper fleet maintenance is crucial to a successful operation,” said Michael Schiller, vice president and general manager of fleet management. “The hours that a piece of equipment spends in need of service are hours the fleet isn’t generating revenue.”
“While we don’t own a wrench, we are the information call center and established vendor network for hundreds of trailers,” he said. The company offers customers four services: maintenance, breakdown, towing and retreading.
According to Schiller, the fleet customers place significant value on Interstar being a single-source provider, to find and manage the qualified vendors and keep trailer maintenance up to par and beyond.
“Breakdown is a four-letter word in trucking,” said Schiller. The company’s 24/7 operations center, staffed with 50 experienced repair coordinators focused on accuracy, offers customer service to address unavoidable issues with road service.
The company reports that phone calls are answered within 20 seconds, and repairs are processed via the website. “Our people have the right resources: the latest mapping system and streamlined repair processes. We train our call center professionals to defuse a tough (unit down) situation, to be courteous, and to ‘smile over the phone’ to add customer comfort, and to make that one extra follow-up call to assure the unit is running.” An average single issue on the road is resolved in two hours.
When asked for the most common roadside service issues, the company offered tires (“under-inflation is the biggest issue”), brakes, lights (“safety is foremost”), semi-frozen fuel lines (“be prepared in all weather”), and reefer breakdowns.
Other vital road services offered: towing and recovery—a network of tow companies provides the required service, including towing, winch-outs, load shifts and incident recoveries. The company helps with non-consent tows and helps reduce a carrier’s liability exposure in many ways, according to a spokesman. It also offers retread tires—from the company’s Oliver retread licensed facility. Fast tire replacement is mandatory and the customer depends on the quality service provider, the company added.
Interstar performs more than 150,000 services annually across the nation. One of the unexpected services is warranty administration. Schiller stated, “We know how to effectively manage the warranty. We’re quite simply solutions providers for deadline-to-deliver and safety-focused truck operators. Our customers don’t have to look for a road service solution no matter where they are.”
Interstar also provides proactive on-site mobile fleet management for large fleets. The maintenance goes where the trailers are sitting, and PMs are scheduled to reduce downtime.
“First, we know our services and our subject: trailers. Second, we know from experience around the country who to call for the best rates in repairs and services, and we always stand behind our service providers, including the expert technician called to help a trucker at 2:00 in the morning,” he added. There is no membership enrollment fee, only charges for services rendered.