How to Avoid Expensive Commercial Truck Repairs: A Driver’s Checklist
As key players of trucking companies, truck drivers deal with the immense responsibility of moving goods and commodities across nations to support the life of the population and the economy. More than just getting behind the wheel, truckers shall comply with the traffic laws as well as the legal and government requirements. On top of that, they are also expected to safely load and unload cargoes, complete paperwork, manage truck maintenance logs and records as per DOT regulations, and perform vehicle checks and troubleshoots.
While controlling a heavy-loaded truck for long hours on the open road, truck drivers practically put their lives on the line. Moreover, they are at risk of developing health problems due to the nature of their work. As essential workers, truckers should invest in taking care of their health to prevent unwanted future medical expenses and also to increase their life expectancy.
The same principle holds for heavy-duty equipment such as trucks and trailers. Other than maintaining the sound health of the drivers, it is equally vital to ensure that the fleets they are operating continuously run in good working order. Poorly maintained heavy trucks are more prone to repetitive, not to mention, costly breakdown repairs and have a considerably shorter life span.
Hence, an owner-operator or carrier must practice due diligence in implementing preventive, instead of reactive maintenance. Furthermore, conducting routine vehicle inspections can guarantee commercial trucks remain effective and safe to operate.
A company may designate a safety officer or a committee to enforce overall fleet safety, maintenance and inspection. But ultimately, truck drivers should have the initiative to efficiently observe regular and timely truck checks to avoid catastrophic vehicle repair costs.
The importance of truck preventive maintenance (PM)
What is PM?
Preventive maintenance is the systematic scheduling of truck servicing, repairs and inspections to minimize potential vehicle issues and fleet downtime.
Most trucking companies think that PM is expensive. But in reality, the cost of investing in a PM program is much lower compared to the huge costs brought about by unexpected breakdowns.
Moreover, regular maintenance routines enable you to catch and resolve minor problems that could easily progress into major ones. In other words, PM significantly reduces the possibility of vehicular malfunctions in the future.
As a result, vehicle uptime is increased. Of course, more time on the road means higher productivity rates and more profit.
PM program, schedule and checklist
There is no one-size-fits-all approach for preventive maintenance. Moreover, for a PM program to be successful, it should be vehicle-specific. To determine the optimum PM schedule intervals, routines and recommended services for your truck, the best thing to do is to get information from the vehicle owner’s manual.
Subsequently, truck drivers must take PM very seriously. This means conducting routine truck inspections should not only be done consistently but also with intent and efficiency. Furthermore, the continued success of the PM program relies on the truck driver just as the state of the vehicle is essentially their responsibility.
For this reason, below is a set of checklists with key items that need to be addressed for daily, weekly and monthly PM.
*For a more exhaustive checklist, you may refer to Schedule 1 and Schedule 2 of the Alberta Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulation.
Pre-trip inspection / circle check / daily trip inspection
According to Section 10 of the Commercial Vehicle Safety Regulations – Alberta (AR 121/2009), commercial vehicles or a combination of commercial vehicles (trucks, tractors and trailers) that exceed a registered gross weight of 4,500 kilograms must undergo daily trip inspections.
The main purpose of a pre-trip inspection is to detect minor issues and be able to address it as soon as possible before it becomes serious. This will avoid not only the short-term expenses of truck repairs but will also minimize the risk for more costly major repairs in the long term. The goal is to take action before any problem surfaces along the journey.
Authorized drivers must complete a formal record called the Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) before departure. To accomplish this, the driver performs a circle check and walks around the heavy vehicle and trailer, if any. Basing on his findings, the driver then marks the checklist accordingly while efficiently going through critical components of the truck such as:
- Air Brake System
- Cargo Securement
- Coupling Devices
- Dangerous Goods
- Driver Controls
- Driver Seat
- Electric Brake System
- Emergency Equipment and Safety Devices
- Exhaust System
- Frame and Cargo Body
- Fuel System
- Glass and Mirrors
- Hydraulic Brake System
- Lamps and Reflectors
- Suspension System
- Wheels, Hubs and Fasteners
- Windshield Wiper/Washer
Continuous vehicle checks throughout the journey
While on duty, the driver shall keep the truck’s behaviour under continuous observation. Whether the driver is on his seat or at a truck stop, he must take note of any unusual noises or vibrations that he may notice. Similarly, the driver shall also be mindful of the following:
- Engine performance
- Warning lights
- Foot brakes
- Exhaust system
As much as a pre-trip check, inspecting a commercial truck after each haul is important. Consequently, a driver shall thoroughly examine all parts of the truck and trailer using the same DVIR checklist to ensure any problem is noted and reported. Similarly, the DVIR notifies the company as well as the next driver about the truck’s condition at the end of every journey.
Should the driver find any defect, he will need to secure a signature from the company mechanic or safety officer. By doing so, it will prompt the carrier to assign a heavy-duty technician to immediately fulfill the required repairs, ideally before the next daily inspection. Moreover, the driver will also need the next driver of the vehicle to sign off the post-trip report, to indicate that they are aware of the issues and take necessary precautions on the road.
Daily truck check
Apart from the required daily trip inspection, a driver may also opt for quick truck checks within the day. Significant items that may need additional checking are:
- Fluid-level checks – ensure correct volumes of engine oil, coolant and brake fluid (for hydraulic brake system)
- Filters – fuel filters, air filters, air brake filters
- Engine leaks
- Lighting outages
- Mirror damages
Weekly truck check
A weekly check is just like another daily check, but a little more comprehensive. This may include the following activities:
- Top up fluid levels
- Check oil quality
- Monitor tire pressure
- Check for fluid leaks under the truck – the first sign of drip could indicate the need to replace a hose or gasket
Monthly truck inspection
Every month, drivers should try to inspect any mechanical issues that do not usually occur within their trucks or fleet.
- Tire check – tread (should be at least 1.5 mm of tread depth), pressure, wear and tear (cuts or bulges)
- Battery – look for signs of corrosion or calcification around terminals
- Windshield washer
- Fluid levels – brakes, clutch, engine oil, power steering and auto transmission fluids (if any)
- Lights – headlights, brake lights, indicators
The true cost of neglecting proper truck maintenance
As freight companies carry out day-to-day deliveries and meet demand schedules to generate revenue, adequate truck maintenance tends to be overlooked.
For one, the heavier the vehicle, the heftier is the upfront cost of frequent truck tune-ups and general truck repairs, especially for larger fleets. And trucking, although it can be very profitable, is an extremely competitive business with high operational costs.
Truck owners thus strive hard to keep operating expenses to a minimum. Subsequently, this may mean deferring even simple large truck repairs to thrive in the industry.
Another issue is that carriers fail to put a significant amount of time and commitment to truck preventive maintenance. Without proper fleet PM and truck maintenance strategy, the truck drivers may find themselves often faced with these two major setbacks:
1. Roadside breakdowns
With ton-loads of weight and extensive time on the road, trucks are bound to experience a mechanical failure at one point, sooner or later. One of the top causes of vehicular malfunctions is poor maintenance. Whether it may be due to truck tire trouble, dead battery or faulty brakes, these could have been entirely avoided and caught early with proper fleet maintenance.
Moreover, roadside truck repairs cost a lot more than it does in your shop. In some cases, you may also need to call and hire a heavy-duty mobile mechanic to provide an accurate diagnosis and execute a thorough truck and trailer repair.
In essence, part of the truck driver’s duties and responsibilities is to share the road safely with other motorists and respect other drivers.
Additionally, according to the law, driving a commercial truck in an unsound condition or with an ill or fatigued operator is illegal. More importantly, drivers must never attempt to roll out any vehicle they deem unsafe or shows even a slight chance of breaking down or causing an accident.
In most cases of accidents, truck companies and truck drivers are the ones likely to be held liable for the damages. In any event that a truck collision involving personal injuries and property damages resulted from negligent truck maintenance; then concerned parties who file a claim for compensation from the carrier may be legally entitled to it.
The direct and indirect costs of truck breakdowns and accidents
All things considered, each breakdown or accident corresponds to serious potential costs associated with that incident. Further, these can be broken down into direct and indirect costs which could negatively impact a trucking company’s bottom line.
- Truck damage repair
- Truck parts replacement
- Freight damage
- Late delivery penalties
- Violation fines
- Cost of injury or casualty
- Medical expenses
- Revenue losses
- Driver’s loss of productivity
- Driver’s accommodation expenses
- Increased insurance costs
- Towing and labour overhead costs
- Storage of impaired vehicle
- Administrative charges
- Police report
- Client losses due to poor performance
- Unexpected and extended fleet downtime
- Missed revenue opportunities
- Replacement truck rental
- Staff/driver replacement
- Fleet disposal
- Decreased value and safety of equipment
- Medical costs
- Poor publicity
- Accident reporting
- Government agency fees
- Legal liabilities
Quality truck and trailer repair
If you find your vehicle stuck on the roadside anywhere in Northern Alberta, only a few automotive service providers can offer reliable mobile truck repairs. Fortunately, Major Overhaul leads as the reputable center for the best truck repair in Edmonton. With over 18 years of providing solid truck and trailer repair services to loyal clients, Major Overhaul’s seasoned heavy-duty mechanics will ensure your truck gets back on the road as quickly as possible.