It doesn’t matter if you are a one-truck operation or if you manage a fleet with thousands of trucks. The most important thing you can control for sustaining and improving profitability is to prevent costly breakdowns and unscheduled maintenance trips. To do this, it is important to stick to a Preventative Maintenance Inspection (PMI) program.
This means doing more than simply changing the oil and filters according the the user’s manual. Many drivers and fleet managers focus on that part of the process and think that performing preventative maintenance is an easy task that can be done with little expertise.
On the contrary, a good PMI involves so much more. The PMI technician needs to be able to quickly evaluate nearly every system on the truck to determine its current state and forecast its future life.
It takes quite a bit of knowledge and experience to uncover indicators of a potential mechanical defect. Expertise is needed to spot a 90-degree air fitting in a location that requires a straight air fitting for example. This error would result in having an extra seven feet of airline and can affect brake timing. It’s important that a PMI technician be able to see these types of defects and understands its potential impact.
Three L’s and One W’s
This can be boiled down to loose components, leaks, lube and wear. Loose components need to be detected in order to avoid repairs later. Shiny metal, loose washers, shifting components and excessive wear can indicate that a bolt or cap screw is loose and must be checked before the vehicle goes into service. This means a trained eye is needed as finding and correcting a loose mounting bolt and correcting it can save an owner-operator or fleet thousands.
Leaky components can be trickier. It’s normal for some technicians to see a “weep” and call it a leak. A number of seals have a small level of seepage that leaves a bit of oil, coolant or fuel. No truck operator wants to pay for unnecessary repairs and an experienced, trained tech can determine the level and severity of the leak. They can also determine if it is a concern or not.
Lubricating the truck is another critical component of PMI. Adding fresh grease is just one small part. Flushing the old grease and contamination is equally important. Technicians who have the experience can look at the condition of old grease and contamination to determine if the component was damaged.
Some components get more use than others, so knowing what and how to measure wear during a scheduled maintenance inspection is a key factor for controlling maintenance costs. In addition to the brake shoes, techs must look at the condition of additional braking components like s-cam bushings, brake drums and slack adjusters.
We all know the importance of preventative maintenance. However, a good PMI is key to the balance sheet. It can be the difference between being in the red of in the black.