Construction companies know better than many the stings of recession and a struggling economy, but what happens to your mixers, trucks, and other diesel equipment as it sits for weeks and even months without a job? Pat Graham, general service manager at Florida Detroit Diesel-Allison (FDDA)—a company providing power solutions to companies in Florida and a member of the WheelTime Quality Truck Care Network—says keeping up the maintenance of a company’s equipment, whether working or stationary for long periods of time,is crucial. Graham has 28 years of experience with FDDA and has seen it all when it comes to the good and bad of equipment maintenance. Recently, Graham says that issues with trucks, especially in the construction sector, are frequently a result of equipment sitting unused due to lack of work. Now that the economy is turning around, equipment is being thrown back to work and is breaking down right when companies need their equipment most, which costs them lost hours and money while equipment is in the shop. Some of the top issues he has seen include:
- Engine and transmission issues
- Hydraulic pump malfunctions
- Belt and air line deterioration
- Hydraulic seals and hose deterioration
- Drum roller and gear
According to Stan Dale, also with FDDA, there are some things a company can do to prevent these issues. Dale’s 33 years spent around the diesel trucking maintenance industry have taught him that developing an appropriate preventive maintenance routine for your equipment is key to keeping your construction trucks and equipment working for you. Dale says to, “Develop a maintenance plan and follow it religiously.” Some simple and inexpensive ways to do this include:
- Train your operators. Equipment operators trained to “listen, feel, and see” are more likely, according to Dale, to detect early when something is going wrong with the equipment. Pre- and post-trip inspections completed by trained operators familiar with the equipment can catch many issues before they become major problems.
- Maintain your equipment on a regular basis and develop a scheduled maintenance routine for your equipment fleet. This is as simple as regularly washing and lubricating trucks. This is especially true with concrete mixers coated daily with cement dust, water, dirt, and other debris while often working in extreme conditions. If left unwashed, this buildup can cause serious issues and make costly repairs necessary.
- Lubrication also is extremely important. Wet lube and dry lube applications to drum roller and running gears is a daily essential. Vehicles sidelined for extended periods will result in a low-level of lubrication protection at initial startup causing more aggressive wear.
- Plan a proactive startup procedure to ensure a smooth return to service for idle equipment. Equipment that has been out of service without being properly prepared may be worse off than equipment that was operated every day. If you have multiple trucks in your fleet and not all of them are needed for a particular job, consider rotating them so that they all see some usage.
- Obtain factory recommended diagnostic information. Some issues with your equipment may not be easily detectable, but problems caught early can save a company costly repair bills. For instance, many truck service providers offer expedited diagnostic services. Preventive maintenance schedules that will save money in the long run can be prepared for trucks brought to these shops. One preventive maintenance test is the Allison transmission volumetric ratio (VR) test, which validates the clutch package integrity. This test takes about 30 minutes to complete and costs less than $100. This issue, if not caught early and the transmission is ruined, can cost a company between $10,000 and $20,000 for towing expenses, penalties from missed work, and a repair bill. There are also some on-board diagnostic systems that send alerts to equipment managers, so they know when a maintenance visit is necessary.
These recommendations are only part of a larger maintenance strategy to keep your company’s equipment in working order. Both Graham and Dale recommend visiting a truck service provider for assistance in creating a custom-designed maintenance plan for your equipment fleet, especially if it hasn’t seen action in a while. According to Dale, if not properly maintained, a piece of equipment that should last a company between seven and 20 years may only last three to four. “Save time. Save money. Keep your equipment maintained.”
Josh Fast is the editor at FactsAboutSCR.com, a site devoted to education on selective catalytic reduction technology and its benefits to the trucking industry, and analyst at Quixote Group Research, a firm with years of experience working in the trucking and diesel engine industry.