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Vetting vendors: Top tips for selecting your service providers

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There’s no shortage of service providers in the trucking industry. To ensure that you select the right service for your fleet, we polled our panel of service provider professionals to ensure you ask the right questions.

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“The vetting process for outside providers is fairly simply but does take time to properly understand, ‘Who do you want working on your units?’” said John Davis, principal fleet maintenance consultant for Dossier Systems. “One of the first items to review is their involvement within the industry groups—what groups do they support and are they currently active? Word of mouth is always a good source of information.

“It is also important to pay a visit to that facility to see for yourself how organized they are, how clean is the shop facility and meet those that you may be working with,” he continued. “Are the technicians ASE-certified and are they TMC/VMRS compliant? Relations go a long way in any business. It is also important to understand if there is an affiliation with certain OEMs, and are they trained for all products? How they do their billing is also important, as you may want to transact your business electronically.”

Jon Dietzler, area operations manager for PacLease, recommended having a fleet strategy ready to strategy ready to discuss with a transportation solution advisor.

“This should include the proper life cycle of the fleet for the operation, the correct fleet mix for the operation, etc. You should also be prepared to discuss your current fleet state and your desired fleet state,” he said. “For example, you currently might run equipment with an average vehicle age of seven-and-a-half years and the fleet consists of all medium-duty vehicles. Your desired state is to run vehicles at an age of three years old because you run a lot of annual miles, which means more maintenance items needing repair and have a mix of medium- and heavy-duty to maximize load capacity, which equals profitability. The question you need to be able to answer is: What will be needed to get you to that desired state?”

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Dietzler advised that fleets need to be prepared to be challenged on their current operational and fleet state. It’s also important to be open to new ideas, especially as the industry continues to change and adapt to new regulations, DOT mandates, engine technology, etc.

“Make sure you are partnering with a provider who has the resources and ability to support you for the long-term,” he concluded. “State-of-the-art facilities, proper tooling for the shops and the ability to hire and train certified technicians will provide you with the peace-of-mind that your partner will be around for years to come.”

Navistar’s Matthew Krump, manager of CSO marketing and service deployment, recommended that the best approach is to seek a partner with whom you can develop an open and honest relationship.

“Both should have the same goals around maintenance and repair of the fleet,” Krump said. “Set expectations up front, and let them know what factors are most important to you in your experience. Let them know what level of maintenance and repair you want to perform in-house. Many providers will offer training, access to service information, tooling, and may have ideas on other ways to reach or exceed your goals.”

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Expertise and attentiveness were at the top of the list for Jorge Medina, director of marketing for Peterbilt Motors Co., in terms of what to look for in a service provider.

“You want a service provider who will perform maintenance and make repairs accurately and correctly the first time to eliminate repeat visits,” he said. “You also want a provider that can get the work done in a timely manner that is convenient for you and helps maximize uptime and keep your deliveries on time.

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