Let’s start here: Safety is paramount, right? If you’re a fleet manager working in the heavy-haul world, you’re certainly familiar with the safety operation requirements of your trailers. But how do you effectively stay on top of it?
Well, the key to effective, long-term preventative trailer maintenance is not necessarily a checklist of tasks — though, you should probably have some kind of checklist like that, it’s certainly a useful tool in an overall maintenance program. Instead, you need to create a routine around maintenance so that it becomes second nature for every operator, technician and employee.
So what do you do?
You start at the beginning, when you’re buying the trailer. Invest in high-quality trailers that minimize maintenance requirements from the outset. Well-constructed units with quality components, like one built with 100,000-PSI minimum yield steel and premium primer and paint options, might cost a little more initially, but specs like this provide long-term dependability that reduces the overall maintenance required by you.
On this note, look for trailers designed for easy maintenance. Keeping up with tasks like replacing bushings and axle seats is less of a hassle for your techs if these wearable components are easy to access.
For example, solid clamp-in bushings offer an extended life over slotted designs and an easier replacement process that doesn’t require you to have an expensive press. Or, look for extra-long, contoured axle seats to reduce stress on the weld and provide a stronger connection without the need of added U-bolts. And, look for cylinders that are mounted parallel to the ground, because technicians can replace these in a matter of minutes.
Building a solid maintenance foundation also requires communication and detailed record keeping – and this is where that checklist I mentioned before is going to come in handy. Of course, every operation is different, so design a maintenance program and schedule that fits YOUR specific needs. So, if your trailers need to be on the road all the time, you’ll want to ensure operators run through a THOROUGH pre- and post-trip inspection to catch signs of wear or damage quickly, so you don’t risk unscheduled downtime.
Keeping detailed records of these inspections and other preventative maintenance, including inspections of wearable items and structural observations, is going to optimize your fleet’s efficiency and keep small issues from becoming larger headaches down the road.
Be sure, too, to keep the lines of communication open between your drivers, technicians and management to ensure everyone is on the same page when it comes to maintenance requirements, and, of course, make sure anyone performing maintenance is properly trained.
If you turn these types of checks and this line of communication into routine, effective maintenance becomes second nature for everyone on the team.