Value of a Clean Fleet


Value of a Clean Fleet

Dirt Is Costly

In times like these when the economy and budgets are tight, often one of the first steps toward cutting costs is reducing or eliminating equipment-washing programs. There are important factors to contemplate before doing that.

For example, soil and debris buildup on mechanical components insulates heat-sensitive components and shortens their life; promotes electrical shorts and vehicle fires; creates acids that erode finishes, base materials and electric components; accelerates wear and abrasion and shortens lubrication life.

Effects on your equipments’ paint and metal finish may include a breakdown in the chemical structure of paint surfaces, reducing paint life; promote scratches and scuffing because of the abrasive effect; and require more frequent refinishing — potentially doubling the price.

Cutting back on or reducing equipment washing also encourages more frequent Department of Transportation inspections — which can impede timely deliveries, reduces your employees’ pride in workmanship, means assigned tasks require additional time, promotes dirt and dust contamination of equipment, and reduces the ability to effectively diagnose mechanical issues. It also creates higher maintenance costs, discourages third-party repair facilities from working on your fleet, affects the quality of preventive maintenance inspections, and affects your ability to hire competent drivers and technicians.

And that’s just within your shop. Your customers’ perception of you also can change to a poor one, since your fleet is your billboard and primary form of advertising. It can even have a negative effect on your negotiating ability, mean poor overall perception of your fleet in the community and have a negative effect on pricing.

Dirty equipment can affect your ability to recruit good drivers, imparting an “I don’t care” attitude throughout the driver ranks. It can foster an unsafe working environment, reduce

the quality of communication between operations and maintenance, and create additional employee turnover.

All this can reduce the value of your assets — reducing return on capital — causing negative vehicle residual value — affecting customer confidence and contributing to a higher variable cost structure.

Finally, dirty equipment has an effect on safety. Why?

• Dirty light fixtures provide less headlight range and tail/brake/running light brightness. Less headlight range, even a few percent less, means it’s harder to see road debris and other conditions. The resulting tire damage and suspension wear mean a slightly higher accident risk.

• Dirty windshields lessen the ability to see and react to road conditions, and there’s more glass wear when wipers are used to clear the dirt, leading to wiper burn and distorted views.

• Dirt and grease buildup on steps, frame rails and grab handles increase the chances of slip-and-fall accidents.

• Dirt and grease buildups also can interfere with proper operation of hitches and doors, leading to accidents and injuries.

Can you put a quantifiable figure on what it costs if you do not have an effective equipment wash program? The answer is “yes.” Taking into account what a wash program will cost the organization, not having one will increase your equipment costs a minimum of 25%. The key is to have such a program and manage as you do other aspects of the business.

Michael Buck
MCG Fleet Management Consulting
St. Simons, Ga.

Credit: Transport Topics Online

Rust Never Sleeps

Rust never sleeps: Simple steps can stop killer corrosion cold

Vehicle corrosion is nothing new. In the earliest days of trucking, rust and road salts were identified as agents that could, over time, degrade even the hardiest trucks. Invasive chemical agents eventually can eat away frames and engine components.

Less robust vehicle components such as floorboards, fenders and doors can be the first structures to fail due to corrosion. Today, with new trucks more dependent on sensitive and vulnerable electronic connections and wiring harnesses, corrosion can bring a truck to a dead stop even quicker.

“We try to have our equipment washed once a week at our terminals,” says Michael Burns, vice president of Burns Motor Freight of Marlinton, W.Va. However, Burns warns that quick washes won’t prevent all corrosion because chemicals such as magnesium chloride and road salts lay in frames, junction boxes, upper couplers and other hard-to-clean areas.

“Over time, corrosion starts to rear its ugly head by having more electrical shorts, paint flaking and pits in metal,” he says. “I’ve seen shocks completely disappear due to corrosion, even with a weekly washing.”

“I’ve seen shocks completely disappear due to corrosion.” – Michael Burns, vice president, Burns Motor Freight

Russ Whiting, president of Whiting Systems Truck Washes, says one simple way to control corrosion is by cleaning a vehicle thoroughly on a frequent basis to remove contaminants before they can do serious damage. Like Burns, Whiting warns that just washing a truck’s exterior is not enough.

There are many good reasons for fleets to review their suspension specs and consider changes to better meet their application requirements as new designs are …

“You really need a comprehensive washing system that washes the undercarriage, chassis and as many hard-to-reach areas on the vehicle as possible,” he says. “Nothing else is as effective as stopping corrosion before it starts than washing. You cannot stop corrosive materials from getting onto a vehicle, particularly in winter months, but you can limit the amount of time they are on a truck and the amount of damage they do.”

Brett Johnson, president and chief executive officer of Optronics International, says corrosion most often is caused by moisture intrusion within a vehicle’s electrical and power delivery system. “The chemicals used to treat the roads can accumulate on the equipment via road spray and will eventually ‘infect’ the components on a piece of equipment, including the electrical system,” he says.

Chemical-based corrosion is prevalent on trailers because the harness system typically is exposed to the elements, Johnson says. Once corrosion begins, an electrical and wiring system can be compromised quickly through leaking lamp connections, cracked lamp housings and lenses, wire and cable abrasion, grit and sand damage, extreme temperature fluctuations, extensive flexing and exposure to moving parts.

Burns’ fleet pays attention to frames, starters, battery terminals, junction boxes, electronic control module connections, ABS components/sensors, electrical terminals, radiators, shock absorbers, frame brackets, brake shoes and slack adjustors – “virtually any component that is exposed to these chemicals,” he says.

“We pay extra to have our truck OEM spray a corrosion protectant on electrical components,” says Burns. “We also pay a higher cost for our trailers because we spec the best paint to resist these chemicals.”

In addition to washing and protective coatings, maintenance basics can go a long way toward controlling corrosion. “We stress that technicians make corrosion awareness a routine part of their maintenance checks,” says Dennis Dammon, national accounts manager for Phillips Industries, a manufacturer of electrical and air brake components.

Routine checks should include major electrical connections, including batteries, starters and alternators. “Make sure no corrosion is present, and treat all major external connections with a corrosion-protective covering,” Dammon says.

Credit: Commercial Carrier Journal

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